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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 13, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Sacred drama reenacted at
Church of the Good Shepherd
Pope, churches reach out
to earthquake victims
CRS collecting funds (see related story below)

Rescue workers stand in the debris of a destroyed house in the town of Onna, Italy, April 7. Rescuers used mechanical diggers and their bare hands to search for survivors of the earthquake that hit central Italy in the night April 6 and killed more than 260. In Onna, 40 of the town’s 350 residents died.

CRS collects funds
for quake victims

Catholic Relief Services, the relief and development arm of the Catholic Church in the United States, is assisting its sister agency in Italy to help hundreds of victims of the deadly April 6 earthquake that struck in the province of L’Aquila.

CRS reported that Caritas Italiana has set up a response center in Pettino, a town near L’Aquila, to coordinate relief efforts and collect and redistribute food, blankets, hygiene items and clothes.

In addition, eight tent camps have been erected around the earthquake zone where the displaced are receiving moral and psychological support from psychologists and Caritas volunteers.

The local Caritas office in L’Aquila and the bishop’s house were destroyed in the quake, in addition to 30 of the 120 churches in the affected area.

CRS is collecting donations that will be forwarded to Caritas Italiana to aid their earthquake relief work:

• Donate via phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS

• Donate online: www.crs.org

• Write a check: Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Maryland 21203-7090. (Please write “Italy Earthquake Emergency” in the memo portion.)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Encouraging solidarity with the victims of the earthquake that struck central Italy April 6, Pope Benedict XVI also promised to visit the survivors.

“My dear ones, I hope to come see you as soon as possible,” the pope said April 8 at the end of his weekly general audience, which was televised throughout Italy.

Shortly after the papal audience, Italian government officials raised the official death toll in the city and province of L’Aquila to 260 people and said more than 1,000 were injured, about 100 seriously. Over 28,000 people have been left homeless.

The main quake, which struck at 3:30 a.m. April 6, registered a magnitude of between 5.8 and 6.3 on the Richter scale. Hundreds of tremors followed, including an aftershock April 7 that registered 5.3 on the Richter scale and caused more buildings to crumble.

Pope Benedict praised the work of the Italian government, police, firefighters, military and volunteers working to rescue victims, house and feed the thousands left homeless, and ascertain which homes, churches, offices and businesses are safe to enter.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the papal visit to the region would take place after Easter.

Among the rescue workers assisting in the region were eight members of the Vatican fire department.

Domenico Giani, director of Vatican security services, told Vatican Radio that as soon as he heard about the earthquake he and the officials in charge of the Vatican governor’s office discussed ways they could help and then spoke to Pope Benedict about it.

“It seemed important at this moment of great pain to ensure that one of our fire department squads was present to lend a hand,” he said.

The firefighters, including a structural engineer, were sent to Onna, a tiny town near L’Aquila that was almost completely destroyed by the quake; 40 of the town’s 350 residents were killed.

Giani said that, after helping recover bodies the first night, the Vatican firefighters started assisting the survivors.

Interviewed from Onna, Paolo De Angelis, the Vatican structural engineer, told Vatican Radio April 7, “The situation is disastrous. The town is destroyed.”

But, he said, even though most of the residents have lost everything, they are helping each other.
The quake, which was felt even 70 miles away in Rome, also did major damage in the town of Paganica, where it claimed the life of Abbess Gemma Antonucci, head of the Poor Clares’ Convent of St. Clare, when the roof of the convent caved in.

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