ROVERETO DI NOVI, Italy (Reuters) – Pope Benedict on Tuesday comforted victims of last month’s Italian earthquake, which killed 25 people and devastated many homes, factories and churches, urging them to seek support in their faith as they seek to rebuild.
The northerly Emilia-Romagna region was hit on May 20 by a 6.0 magnitude quake, Italy‘s deadliest since 2009, and then by numerous aftershocks.
In a two-hour visit to Rovereto di Novi, Benedict rode on a green civil protection department jeep through the town’s “red zone”, past some its most heavily damaged buildings.
He was visibly moved as he met children and elderly people left homeless by the quake, which damaged or destroyed many of the region’s towers, castles and churches as well as causing serious damage to dairy and pharmaceutical plants.
In an address, Benedict told stricken residents, many of whom are living in tent camps, to rebuild their lives on the foundation of their faith.
“On this rock, on this firm hope, you can build, you can rebuild,” he said, adding that, while their buildings were cracked, their hearts were not.
The pope paid tribute to a local parish priest, Father Ivan Martini, who died when his church collapsed while he was inside checking damage from an earlier tremor.
On top of the human cost of the quakes, the economic damage to the region, one of the most prosperous in Italy, is put at least 5 billion euros.
(Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)