00 5/31/2009 8:04 AM

Resuming this thread begun in the PAPA RATZINGER FORUM, with the Holy Father's pastoral visits within Italy in 2009.......


The first pastoral visit was unplanned because it was the Pope's response to the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region particularly the capital, L'Aquila, and its surrounding areas in th early morning hours of April 6, Monday in Holy Week.

Holy Wednesday, April 6
At the General Audience, the Holy Fahter announced he would visit the earthquake victims of Abruzzo as soon as possible.

Quake-damaged church in Sant'elia, a village near L'Aquila, capital of the Abruzzo region and epicenter of the earthquake.

Maundy Thursday, April 7
At the Chrismal Mass, the Holy Father blessed oils and chrism to be given to the Diocese of L'Aquila
which would be unable to carry out its usual Maudn Thursday blessing of the oils and chrism.

Good Friday, April 8
The Holy Father sent Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to preside at the funeral Mass for the victims of the earthquake, along with his personal secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein.

Here is the account of that event.

Pope urges earthquake survivors
to keep up hope

L'AQUILA, Italy, April 10 (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI has urged quake-stricken people to have courage and keep up hope.

The Pope told the survivors that he felt "spiritually among you" and that he was sharing their anguish.

The message was read Friday by the Pope's secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, at the opening of a collective funeral for 205 victims of the quake.

The Pope sent Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, to preside at the funeral Mass.

Benedict plans to visit the quake area in the coming weeks.

The Vatican granted a special dispensation to hold a Mass on Good Friday, the only day on the Roman Catholic calendar on which Mass is not normally celebrated.

Cardinal Bertone and Mons. Gaenswein arriving in L'Aquila earlier today:


Translated from

Here is the text of the message sent by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Archbishop of L'Aquila, Mons. Giuseppe Molinari, which Mons. Georg Gaenswein read at the start of the funeral Mass for victims of the earthquake:

To my dear Archbishop Molinari and all of you,
dearest brothers and sisters in the Lord:

In these tragic time when an immense tragedy has fallen on your land, I feel myself spiritually present among you to share your anguish, to ask God to grant eternal rest to the victims, quick recovery for the injured, and for everyone, the courage to continue in hope without yielding to despondency.

I asked my Secretary of State to preside at this extraordinary liturgical celebration at which the Christian community gathers around their dead to give them the last farewell.

I entrust to him and to my private secretary the task of bringing you in person the expression of my sorrowful participation in the grief of those who mourn dear ones taken down by this disaster.

At moments like these, faith remains the source of light and hope, especially during these days which speak of the suffering of the Son of God who became man for us: May his passion, his death and his resurrection, be for all a fountain of comfort, and open the heart of each one to the contemplation of that life when "there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away" (Ap 21,4).

I am sure that with the commitment of everyone, we can face the most impelling necessities. The violence of the quake has created situations of singular difficulty.

I have followed the developments in this devastating telluric phenomenon from the first moments, which were felt even in the Vatican, and I have noted the growing wave of solidarity with which aid and rescue work have been organized, towards even more incisive actions by institutions of the State and the Church, as well as the private sector.

The Holy See intends to do its part, together with the parishes, religious institutions and lay organizations. This is the time for commitment and work, alongside the organisms of the state, whose work has been praiseworthy. Only solidarity will allow overcoming trials that are this sorrowful.

I entrust to the Blessed Virgin all the persons and families affected by this tragedy, and through her maternal intercession, I ask the Lord to wipe every tear and heal every wound, even as I send to each of you a special and comforting Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican
April 9, 2009

After reading the Pope's message, Mons. Gaenswein said the Holy Father had donated the chalice to be used in the Eucharistic Sacrifice as a sign of a more intense closeness to the pain and suffering of the earthquake victims.

The earlier AP story:

L'AQUILA, Italy (AP) — Grieving relatives collapsed over flower-draped caskets of the victims of Italy's worst earthquake in three decades as the nation joined in a day of mourning Friday.

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was to preside over an exceptional Good Friday funeral Mass for about 200 victims, whose coffins were lined up on a vast military ground in the quake-stricken city of L'Aquila. Some of the 289 victims had already been buried privately.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other key government officials were among the 10,000 mourners expected for the outdoor ceremony beneath Abruzzo's snowcapped mountains. The funeral is being held outdoors because none of the region's churches is stable enough for the ceremony.

"Today will be a moment of great emotion. How can one not be moved by so much pain?" Berlusconi said, shortly before departing for L'Aquila for the funeral.

"These are our dead today, they are the dead of the whole nation," said the premier.

Volunteers guided mourners to the caskets of their loved ones. Each of the simple varnished wooden coffins, graced with either a cross or a crucifix and with a bouquet of flowers, bore a golden plaque with the name of the deceased, the dates of their birth and death.

Small white caskets holding the quake's youngest victims rested on larger coffins, presumably those of a parent or close relative. Berlusconi said 20 children and teenagers were among the dead.

A woman grieved over a casket draped in soccer jerseys and holding the silver-framed photo of a smiling young man with thick blond hair.

Inside the enormous hangar that has served as a makeshift morgue, dark-suited men reflected solemnly on the moment, gingerly touching several plain wooden caskets that remained there before the ceremony, as if in a final farewell.

The Vatican granted a special dispensation for the Mass. Good Friday, which marks Jesus' death by crucifixion, is the only day in the year on which Mass in not normally celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.

"Today is a 'Via Crucis' for each of us," said Stefania Pezzopane, one of the top officials of this medieval city in central Italy. The "Via Crucis," or "Way of the Cross," is the procession held on Good Friday in commemoration of Jesus' suffering before crucifixion.

The 6.3-magnitude quake struck Monday at 3:32 a.m., catching many in their sleep. It collapsed buildings and reduced entire blocks to piles of rubble. L'Aquila was among the hardest hit, but the quake damaged some 26 towns in the central mountainous region of Abruzzo.

On Thursday, L'Aquila took a halting step toward normalcy as butchers, bakers and other shopkeepers reopened for business and firefighters began entering buildings to grab essential items for the homeless.

Aftershocks, including some strong ones, continued to rattle residents — nearly 18,000 of whom are living in tent camps around the stricken region. An additional 10,000 have been put up in seaside hotels, out of the quake zone, and the Italian railway provided heated sleeping cars at L'Aquila's main train station, where nearly 700 people spent the night.

Firefighters surveyed for damage as far away as Rome, 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of the quake's epicenter.

Here is the report from Vatican Radio:

Benedict XVI to earthquake survivors:
'God grant everyone the courage
to continue in hope'

Translated from
the Italian service of

Two hundred fifty coffins - of 289 known deaths so far - laid down in four rows. This was the moving sight this morning at the Piazza D'Armi of the Italian Finance Guard's School for Inspectors at Coppito, near L'Aquila, at the state funeral for the victims of the recent earthquake.

Presiding at the rites in representation of Pope Benedict XVI was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who concelebrated with the Archbishop of L"Aquila, Mons Giuseppe Molinari, 18 other bishops from the stricken Abruzzo region and other regions of Italy, and the Pope's private secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein.

The highest Italian authorities were present, including the head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the presidents of Italy's two chambers of Parliament.

Alessandro Carolis reports:

Two hours before the Mass began, the ceremony already had its icon of inconsolable grief - a mahogany coffin, lined up along the rest, upon which rested a small white one, a victim whose life was snuffed out too early.

But it was not the only one of its kind. Another 4 little coffins were positioned that way, above or beside their mothers, a last contact instead of the embraces and caresses there would have been. But a killer quake at 3:32 in the morning of Monday has left ruin even in the hearts of those who survive.

Those five tiny coffins, more than anything, showed "the indecipherable enigma of dear', in the words of Cardinal Bertone, whom the Pope had sent along with his private secretary, in order to be near the living and the dead in this tragedy that has shaken not just Italy, whose grief the world shares.

Death is an enigma that signifies annihilation, 'an insuperable absence', except that the apparent 'silence of God' is the prelude, as Good Friday reminds us, to Resurrection, according to a message from Benedict XVI that was read by Mons. Gaenswein:

"At moments like these, faith remains the source of light and hope, especially during these days which speak of the suffering of the Son of God who became man for us: May his passion, his death and his resurrection, be for all a fountain of comfort, and open the heart of each one to the contemplation of that life when "there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away".

"I am sure that with the commitment of everyone, we can face the most impelling necessities," the Pope added, assuring the survivors that the Church, on every level, and in every way possible, will be with the institutions of the state on the front lines to assist them, just as 'the growing wave of solidarity' from rescue and aid teams has already shown.

Benedict XVI said he prays that everyone "may have the courage to continue in hope without yielding to despair".

Cardinal Bertone, in his homily, sought to accompany the grieving families' remembrance of their departed with great delicacy and respect.

He said that, just as it was to the Crucified Lord who felt abandoned on Calvary,

"God may seem absent, the pain may appear brutal and senseless, and the tears may obscure the timid rays of sunshine and spring. And yet, it is when we are provoked by the question, 'Where is your God now?', that we feel emerging from the depths the certainty of God's loving intervention."

In the silence of death, Cardinal Bertone said, the presence of God becomes 'a candle of hope'.

"Death makes us realize directly that in one instant everything can cease - dreams, plans, hopes. Everything ends, but love remains. God, who is love, remains. In this hour of profound sorrow and disorientation, the Word of God sustains our faith, comforts us, and assures us that nothing can annul the power of love."

The cardinal echoed the Pope's message in laying stress on the 'values of solidarity and brotherhood' which, he said, 'all of Italy', united to the victims of this tragedy, has once again shown it possesses in depth:

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us resume the journey, together with Mary, carrying together the pain of the insuperable absence of the departed, with a more assiduous, brotherly and loving presence among their families, who have become even more authentically our family, in the great family of the children of God.

"Thanks to the maternal assistance of Our Lady, let us try to draw from life an authentically Christian lesson of life. Supported by her intercession, we shall not fear the difficulties which lie before us".

Those sentiments were echoed through a different religious sensibility by Imam Mohamed Nour Dacia, president of the Union of Islamic Communities, who offered prayers after the Mass for the six Muslims who died in the tragedy, and for all the other victims.

Beyond this sorrowful Good Friday is Easter, the glorious day of Resurrection, which, Cardinal Bertone wished, may bring comfort to all: "May Easter shine again from the ruins for a people who have so often been tried in your history."

Bishop Molinari gave the concluding words:

"Dear brothers and sisters, who have been struck by the loss of your dearest ones, it is a moment for great faith, as expressed to me by a father who lost two sons in this tragedy. A faith which is stronger than sorrow, than loss, than fear, doubt and despair... Lord, grant that from this insupportably absurd story of death may be born a new and luminous story of life and hope."