Continuing to express his heartbreak, the Holy Father noted, “To hear the mayor of Amatrice say: ‘The village is gone and I know that among the dead, are children,’ really struck me.”
“I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of my prayers, and wish to tell them to be assured of the caress and embrace of the whole Church at this time, who wants to embrace you with her maternal love, and even of our embrace, here, in the Square.”
Pope Francis went on to thank all the volunteers and those involved in civil protection that are currently working to offer relief.
“I ask you to join me in praying,” he said, “that the Lord Jesus, Who is always moved by compassion before human suffering, consoles these saddened hearts and gives them peace through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With Jesus, let our hearts be moved with compassion.”
“Therefore,” Pope Francis said, “let us postpone this week’s catechesis to next week and I invite you to recite a portion of the Holy Rosary with me, the sorrowful mysteries.”
According to the BBC, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy at 3:36 a.m. Wednesday morning, specifically 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Rome, claiming at least 38 lives and leaving some 150 missing.
As the earthquake struck the regional border area of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche, in Rome some buildings shook for some 20 seconds. About 80 aftershocks have been reported since. People from as far north as Bologna and as far south as Napoli have reported feeling the quake and its effects.
Although local authorities are unsure of the full extent of casualties, the highest numbers were reported in the small village of Pescara del Tronto, where 10 people were reported dead, including children. Twenty people have been taken to hospital, but the number of casualties, local sources say, is expected to rise.
Some of the worst damage was in the town of Amatrice, where at least five died; the town was reduced almost to rubble. Rescue efforts are underway to find survivors.
According to the Italian news agency ANSA, in the same town, two little boys, ages four and seven, were pulled alive from the rubble of the house they had been staying in, with their grandmother. According to rescuers, they had been sheltering under a bed.
In the nearby village of Accumoli, a family of four is also feared to be dead.