Pope's Address to Earthquake Victims

“In all the fear and anguish, there is above all the certainty that God is with us”

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during his visit to the region of northern Italy recently struck by earthquakes.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Thank you for your welcome!

From the first days of the earthquake that struck you, I have always been close to you with my prayer and concern. However, when I saw that the tests became even harder, I felt ever more intensely the need to come in person among you. And I thank the Lord who has granted this to me!

With great affection I am now with you, gathered here, and I embrace with my mind and heart all the regions, all the peoples who have suffered damages from the quake, especially the families and communities that mourn the deceased: may the Lord receive them in his peace. I would have liked to visit all the communities, to make myself present in a personal and concrete way, but you know well how difficult it would have been. At this moment, however, I would like everyone, in every region, to feel how the Pope’s heart is close to your heart to console you, but above all to encourage and support you. I greet the Lord Minister Representative of the Government, the Head of the Department of Civil Protection, and the Honorable Vasco Errani, President of the Emilia-Romagna Region, to whom I give my heartfelt thanks for the words he addressed to me in the name of the institutions and of the civil community. I wish to thank, then, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, for the affectionate expressions he addressed to me, and from which emerges the strength of your hearts, which did not break, but are profoundly united in faith and in hope. I greet and thank brother bishops and priests, the representatives of the different religious and social realities, the Forces of Order, the volunteers: it is important to offer a concrete testimony of solidarity and unity. I am grateful for this great testimony, above all of the volunteers!

As I was saying to you, I felt the need to come among you, even if for a brief moment. Also when I was in Milan, at the beginning of this month for the World Meeting of Families, I would have liked to come to visit you, and my thought often went to you. I knew in fact that, in addition to suffering the material consequences, you were tested in spirit, by the protraction of the shocks, also strong, as well as by the loss of some symbolical buildings of your regions, and among these, particularly, so many churches. Here at Rovereto di Novi, in the collapse of the church, which I have just seen, Father Ivan Martini lost his life. Rendering homage to his memory, I address a particular greeting to you, dear priests, and to all brothers, who are demonstrating, as has already happened in other difficult hours of the history of these lands, your generous love for the people of God.

As you know, we priests – but also the Religious and not a few laymen – pray every day with the so-called “Breviary” which contains the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church which spans the day. We pray with the Psalms, according to an order which is the same for the whole Catholic Church, throughout the world. Why do I say this to you? Because in these days, while praying Psalm 46, I found this expression which touched me: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2-3).

How many times have I read these words? Innumerable times! I have been a priest for 61 years! And yet at certain moments, such as this one, they strike me intensely, because they touch on life, they give voice to an experience that you are now living, and that all those who pray share. But – look – these words of the Psalm not only strike me because they use the image of the earthquake, but above all because of what they affirm regarding our interior attitude in face of the ravages of nature: an attitude of great security, based on the stable, immovable rock that God is. We “will not fear though the earth should change” – says the Psalmist – because “God is our refuge and strength,” He is “a very present help in trouble.”

Dear brothers and sisters, these words seem to contrast with the fear  that is inevitably felt after an experience as that which you went through. An immediate reaction, which can be imprinted more profoundly, if the phenomenon is prolonged. But, in reality, the Psalm does not refer to this type of fear, which is natural, and the security it affirms is not that of supermen who are not touched by normal feelings. The security of which it speaks is that of faith, by which, yes, there can be fear, anguish – Jesus also felt these, as we know – but, in all the fear and anguish, there is above all the certainty that God is with us; as the child who knows that he can always count on his mother and father, because he feels loved, wanted, no matter what happens. This is how we are in respect to God: small, fragile, but safe in his hands, that is, entrusted to his Love which is solid as a rock. This Love we see in Christ crucified, is at the same time is the sign of pain, of suffering, of love. It is the revelation of God-Love, in solidarity with us to extreme humiliation.

On this rock, with this firm hope, one can construct, one can reconstruct. On the ruins of the post-War – not only material – Italy was certainly reconstructed thanks also to the help received, but above all thanks to the faith of so many people animated by the spirit of true solidarity, of the will to give a future to families, a future of liberty and peace. You are people whom all Italians esteem for your humanity and sociability, for your laboriousness united to jovialness. All this has now been put to a hard test by this situation, but it must not and cannot affect what you are as a people, your history and your culture. Remain faithful to your vocation of fraternal and solidaristic people, and face everything with patience and determination, rejecting the temptations that unfortunately are connected to these moments of weakness and need.

The situation you are living has brought to light an aspect that I would like you to have very present in your heart: you are not and will not be alone! In these days, amid so much destruction and so much grief, you saw and felt how many people were moved to express their closeness, solidarity, affection; and this through so many concrete signs and aid. My presence in your midst is one of these signs of love and hope. Looking at your lands I have been profoundly moved in face of so many wounds, but I have also seen so many hands that want to care for you; I have seen that life begins again, that it wishes to begin again with strength and courage, and this is the most beautiful and luminous sign.

From this place I would like to make a strong appeal to institutions, to every citizen to be, also in the difficulties of the moment, as the Good Samaritan of the Gospel who does not pass by indifferently before one who is in need but, with love, bends down, helps him, stays with him, taking charge to the end of the needs of the other (cf. Luke 10:29-37). The Church is close to you and will be close to you with her prayer and with the concrete aid of her organizations, in particular Caritas, which will be committed also in the reconstruction of the community fabric of the parishes.

Dear friends, I bless you one and all, and bear you with great affection in my heart.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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