It’s the distance covered by the Pope in a golf cart so as to personally cross the “red zone” with an “unplanned” visit, which speaks volumes about his closeness to the inhabitants of the city centre who on the night of the earthquake lost everything they had. For a day, thanks to the attention garnered by Bergoglio, Camerino became the “symbolic city” of all the local inhabitants brought to their knees by a devastating earthquake that shattered Central Italy, with the yearning to recover from a deafening silence that still prevails in the historic centre after three years. Remember and rebuild are the two imperatives of the homily at the Holy Mass celebrated in Piazza Cavour filled to the brim despite the stifling heat.
“I came here today to be close to you,”
Francis said. His appeal for reconstruction makes no concessions:
“Almost three years have passed, and the risk is that after the initial emotional and media involvement attention will fall and promises will be forgotten, increasing the frustration of the people, who see the area become increasingly depopulated.” He said: “It takes more strength to rebuild than to build, to restart than to start, to reconcile than to get along.”
But “God does not leave us in oblivion”, the Pope said, bearing concrete witness at the beginning of his journey by entering six “prefabricated homes”, – and not three as initially programmed – that house the displaced persons. “Gives us back our dignity”, read a banner written by these youths, families, children and elderly people, champions of resilience.
“While down here too many things are quickly forgotten, God does not leave us in oblivion.”
The first words of the Pope in Piazza Cavour are words of hope, as were those spoken on the first day of his journey to Camerino, that began with a visit to the prefabricated houses, where Francis met with the people displaced by the earthquake in an intimate and familiar atmosphere, followed by a private meeting in the Cathedral and with the mayors of the municipalities of the archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche, accompanied by the archbishop, Francesco Massara. Before destroyed houses and buildings reduced to rubble, the first question raised by the Pope, quoting from the Psalms, is: “What is man?”. Then the reference to the earthquake, of which the local population has a vivid recollection:
“we are small under the heavens and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.”
“Memory is a key word for life”, the Pope went on: “Let’s remember how much we are worth, when faced with the temptation to give into sadness or when reminiscing about the worst that never seems to end.” “Negative memories arrive even when we don’t call them to mind, but all they leave us with is melancholy and nostalgia”, is Francis’ reminder. The Lord “does not release our burdens, as we – always seeking rapid and superficial solutions – would like. No, the Lord sent us the Holy Spirit.”
“Come, consoling Spirit. Come and bestow some light upon us, give the sense of this tragedy”,
give us the hope that does not disappoint”, the Pope said in an impromptu prayer. “When we are troubled or wounded – and you know well what it means to be troubled, wounded – we are led to ‘nest’ around our sadness and our fears.” The Holy Spirit “frees us from these nests, giving us strength, encouraging us as we carry our burdens. The Holy Spirit “is a specialist in rebirth, recovery, in rebuilding.” The Holy Spirit is a “long-lasting hope.”
“I am here to pray together to God that remembers everyone, lest nobody forget those in need”, said the Pope. He then made an appeal to reconstruction, urging to preserve the attention on this city, symbolizing a large area of Central Italy devastated by the earthquake that sadly turned into the largest construction site in Europe, exposed to severe depopulation. “The Lord instead pushes us to remember, repair, rebuild, and to do so together, without ever forgetting those who suffer”, an invitation for the future: “Everyone can do some good, without waiting for others to begin. Everyone can comfort someone, without waiting for their problems to be solved.” Even when carrying our cross we can bring consolation to others. “What is man ever? Man is your great dream Lord, which you always remember”, the final, impromptu prayer: “Dear Lord, it is not easy to understand in these circumstances,
Men forget about us, they don’t remember this tragedy. But you, our Lord, You don’t forget.
Man is your great dream Lord, which you always remember. Make us remember that we are in the world to give hope and closeness, because we are your children, “God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1: 3).
“Your Holiness, we entrust you with our future”,
read a huge banner hanging from the prefabricated “homes.” Thanks to the Pope, the journey leading to the end of precariousness in the earthquake-stricken areas of Central Italy began in Camerino. No one, from now on, can pretend they haven’t heard.