· The General Audience dedicated to prayer for the people struck by an earthquake that shook central Italy. ·

Within hours of an earthquake that devastated areas of central Italy early Wednesday morning, 24 August, Pope Francis expressed “heartfelt sorrow” and “closeness to all those present in the zones affected”, to “those who have lost loved ones” and to “those who are anxious and afraid”. The catechesis on mercy that the Pope had planned for the day’s General Audience was postponed to the following week in order to devote the time to silence and prayer.

Thus Wednesday’s Audience was transformed into a intense moment of spiritual solidarity with the people who had fallen victim to the terrible quake, for whom the more than 12 thousand people present in the Square, led by the Pontiff, recited a rosary.

-S.S. Francesco - Udienza Generale 24-08-2016 - (Copyright L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO - Servizio Fotografico - photo@ossrom.va)

Francis shared with the faithful his wish to dedicate Wednesday’s event to this prayer intention after hearing the anguished words of the Mayor of Amatrice, one of the towns most devastated by the earthquake.

The Pope explained that he had been “deeply saddened”, especially upon learning “that there are children among the dead”. Therefore, the Holy Father said, “I want to assure all the people of Accumoli, Amatrice, and beyond, in the Dioceses of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria and le Marche, of the prayer and close solidarity of the entire Church who in these moments extends her maternal love”.

The Pontiff also expressed gratitude to all the volunteers and rescue personnel working in the aftermath. “I ask you to join me in praying to the Lord Jesus, who is always moved by compassion before the reality of human suffering, that he may console the broken hearted and, by the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace”.

In a sign of solidarity, a team of Vatican City firefighters left immediately to bring aid to the people affected by the earthquake.

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