By Catholic News Service
ROVERETO DI NOVI, Italy (CNS) — Fear and anxiety are natural responses to the terror and destruction wrought by a natural disaster, but God’s love is rock solid, providing certainty and solace for all victims, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“Upon this rock, with this firm hope, one can build and one can rebuild,” he said to more than 2,000 Rovereto di Novi residents — many of whom were rendered homeless and jobless by two earthquakes in May.
“Remain true to your vocation as fraternal and supportive people, and tackle everything with patience and determination, fighting the temptations that unfortunately come with these moments of weakness and need,” he said June 26.
The pope made his remarks during a morning visit to one of the areas hit by two strong tremors in northern Italy May 20 and May 29. Smaller tremors continue as thousands of people live in makeshift structures and tents since buildings have collapsed or are considered unsound.
Pope Benedict flew by helicopter from the Vatican to San Marino di Carpi and rode in a van then an open-air military green jeep to Rovereto to greet people and witness some of the damage. Concrete buildings displayed huge cracks in their walls and brick tiles had broken and fallen off roofs.
The pope stopped at the damaged church of St. Catherine of Alexandria and prayed for the repose of Father Ivan Martini, 65, who was killed May 29 when falling debris crashed on top of him while he was trying to save sacred and liturgical objects in the church.
One of the objects he saved — a large wooden statue of Mary — was placed on the stage where the pope gave his talk, greeted residents and rescue workers, reassured families and blessed babies.
The pope said his thoughts and prayers have always been with those affected and those mourning the loss of loved ones. He said he wanted to visit firsthand as a concrete sign of his affection and “above all to encourage you and support you.”
He said he found a recent reading in the Breviary, Psalm 46: 2-3, to be especially poignant, given the circumstances of his trip. “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,” it says.
The psalm reaffirms how people of faith need to face natural disasters, he said. While it’s normal and understandable to be afraid and anxious, inside one should find a feeling of unshaken security knowing one’s life is in God’s hands.
“There is security in one’s faith so that, yes, there can be fear and anguish, which even Jesus felt, but there is above all the certainty that God is with me like a child always knows he can count on his mother and father, because he is loved and wanted no matter what happens.”
Compared to God, “we are small and fragile, but safe in his hands, therefore trust in his love that is solid as a rock.”
The pope made an urgent appeal to everyone to not ignore the suffering of those in need but, like the Good Samaritan, to come to other people’s aid with love.
PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI arrives to visit the church of St. Catherine of Alexandria June 26, after it was damaged in a late-May earthquake in Rovereto di Novi, Italy. Father Ivan Martini was killed May 29 when falling debris crashed on top of him while he was trying to save sacred and liturgical objects in the church. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)