Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pope calls for rebirth of quake region

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for the rebirth of the devastated central Italian region of Abruzzo when he paid a visit to the quake-stricken region.

Benedict began his visit by expressing his condolences to victims of the quake in the village of Onna, where many of the town's survivors are living in tents.

Almost 295 people were killed by the 6.3-magnitude quake which struck near the city of L'Aquila on 6 April.

"The pope is here, today, among you, to give you all words of comfort about your loved ones who have passed away," he said in Onna where 40 people are believed to have died.

"It is not the first earthquake that has struck your region, and now, as in the past you have not given up, you have not lost hope."

As well as acknowledging the courage and hope of survivors, Benedict called for the region of Abruzzo to be "reborn" in honour of the victims.

"They are waiting to see their land reborn and once again adorned with beautiful, solid houses and churches," the pope said.

"If it was possible, I would have liked to have visited all the tent shelters to meet everyone. Despite the efforts of solidarity showed by many, I realise it is very difficult to live outside your home, in cars, in tents and even more so when it is cold and raining."

The pontiff also visited Abruzzo's largest Romanesque church, the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, which suffered extensive damage after the earthquake.

After he arrived, Benedict donated the papal 'pallium' or cloak he used during the inauguration of his pontificate to the church.

Following his visit to the basilica, Benedict visited the student accommodation building that collapsed in L'Aquila and met a group of surviving students and listened to their stories about the tragic collapse of the building and the victims.

The earthquake destroyed large parts of the Abruzzo region and forced around 65,000 people to flee their homes. At least 36,000 are now living in tents, while other refugees are being hosted by hotels and other residents.

The Italian cabinet has approved the release of 8 billion euros over three years for Abruzzo's reconstruction.
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Source (AKI)

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