“It takes more strength to repair than to build, to begin again than to begin, to reconcile only to get along. This is the strength that God gives us,” said Pope Francis, visiting the areas of the Italian diocese of Camerino affected by the earthquake of August 2016, three years after the disaster, June 16, 2019.
Arrived by helicopter at the sports center of the University of Camerino, the pope went to the emergency housing structures where he met the families who live there, in the town of Cortina. He entered several homes, exchanging residents – including a 92-year-old woman and her grandson engaged in reconstruction – urging “not to lose hope”, to “pray always”.
Outside, he also greeted the residents, shook hands, joked with them, blessing children, indulging in selfies. “I would have liked to visit all the houses,” he told them. “I am close to each of you … I pray for you to resolve this situation as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and your courage. “
Wearing a helmet, the pope then went to the still condemned cathedral. In the middle of the rubble, he offered a wreath of flowers and took refuge at the foot of a statue of the Virgin Mary disfigured by the earthquake. Then, after having briefly met the mayors of the communes of the diocese, he celebrated the Sunday Mass at Cavour Square.
“With God,” he said in his homily, “the weights of life do not remain on our shoulders: the Spirit, whom we call every time we make the sign of the cross when we touch our shoulders, come give us strength, encourage us, support our weight … He who approaches God is not defeated, he advances; he succeeds in starting again, trying again, rebuilding. “
Expressing his closeness to the inhabitants, he called for “concrete gestures of proximity”: after three years, he noted, “the risk is that, after the first emotional and media involvement, the attention falls and the Promises end up in oblivion, increasing the frustration of those who see the territory ever more depopulated.”
The celebration concluded with the prayer of the Angelus. The pope then had lunch with the priests of the diocese at the Center of the Community of St. Paul, before returning to the Vatican.