· During a visit to Carpi and Mirandola, the Pontiff prayed for earthquake victims and urged them not to give in to distrust. ·
“There are those who remain trapped among the ruins of life, and those, who like you, with God’s help, lift the ruins of life and rebuild with patient hope”, Pope Francis said to the faithful of the diocese of Carpi, where he made a pastoral visit on 2 April to express his closeness with the people of this land, struck by an earthquake in 2012. The Pontiff spent nine intense hours in this strip of land in Emilia Romagna region, also stopping at Mirandola, where he paid homage to earthquake victims by placing flowers on the altar of the cathedral – still inaccessible and supported by scaffolding – and then at the San Giacomo Roncole district, before the monument built to remember those who lost their lives in that terrible event.
During Mass celebrated in the morning in Carpi’s Piazza Martiri (Martyrs’ Square), the Pope was inspired by the readings for the fifth Sunday in Lent, in particular from the Gospel of the Resurrection of Lazarus, to suggest a very timely reflection on the meaning of human suffering. “We are also called to decide on which side to be. One can be on the side of the sepulchre or on the side of Jesus”, he said during his homily. In fact, he explained, “faced with life’s great ‘why [questions]’, we have two paths [to choose from]: stay and look at yesterday’s and today’s sepulchres with melancholy, or let Jesus come closer to our sepulchres”. In reality, “each one of us already has a small sepulchre, an area that is somewhat dead within our hearts; a wound, an inflicted or endured wrongdoing, a relentless resentment, a regret which keeps coming back, a sin which we cannot get over”, Pope Francis explained. “Let us identify the little sepulchres which we have within us today and let us invite Jesus there”.
Following the ceremony, the Pope led the Angelus, introducing the Marian prayer with appeals for solidarity with countries going through particular difficulties: firstly Colombia, where a gigantic mud slide caused by torrential rain surged through the city of Mocoa, causing many dead and injured; the Kasai region in Democratic Republic of Congo from where reports continue to arrive of bloody armed conflicts; and finally Venezuela and Paraguay. “I pray for those people, who are very dear to me – he said regarding the two Latin American countries – and invite everyone to persevere without tiring in the pursuit of political solutions, avoiding all violence”.
Later, the Pope went to Carpi’s episcopal seminary where he had lunch with bishops, priests, seminarians and elderly residents of the clergy house. He then spent an hour meeting privately with diocesan priests, students of the seminary and local women and men religious in the chapel. There he answered question on various topics, among which the synodal Church, relations between priests and within the community, involvement of lay people and their responsibility in the Church and the language to use when speaking of God to today’s young people.
The Pope then reached Mirandola, where he met the populations struck by the earthquake five years ago. “Today I am among you to confirm the affection of the entire Church and to bear witness to each [of you] of my closeness and my encouragement for the journey that still remains in reconstruction”, he sad in a speech to the faithful after the Bishop of Carpi had greeted him, announcing to the community the imminent start of repairs and restoration work at Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral (Our Lady of Assumption). “The wounds have healed, but the scars remain and will continue to remain for the rest of your lives”, Pope Francis said. “And looking at these scars, may you have the courage to grow and to make your children grow in that dignity, strength, that spirit of hope, that courage that you had at the time of the wounds”, he added. The Pontiff also made an appeal for the recovery of the “city centres” which, he said, were “spaces of memory” and “Indispensable places to social and ecclesial life”.
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