After his Angelus address Sunday Pope Francis prayed for those who have lost family and friends after the latest set of earthquakes in central Italy this past week, as well as for all those who provide assistance, including rescue workers.
“In recent days, the earthquake and heavy snow have once again put a strain on many of our brothers and sisters in Central Italy, especially in Abruzzo, Marche and Lazio,” he said Jan. 22. “I am close with prayer and affection to families who have had victims among their loved ones.”
“I encourage all those engaged generously in the relief efforts and assistance; as well as the local Churches, who are working to alleviate the suffering and difficulties.”
“Thank you so much for this closeness, for your work and concrete help it carries. Thank you!” he said, inviting those present in St. Peter’s Square to join him in praying the ‘Hail Mary.’
Four earthquakes hit central Italy, already devastated by earthquakes in August and October of last year. They struck in the morning and afternoon Jan. 18, ranging from a 5.2 magnitude to 5.7, and followed by multiple aftershocks. The region was already affected by major snowfall.
It is believed the earthquakes also may have caused an avalanche which destroyed the Rigopiano hotel Jan. 19, burying 30-some people inside. Since Thursday, rescue crews have recovered 9 people alive; 5 are confirmed dead and at least 15 are still missing, the BBC reports.
The Pope’s message for the Angelus talked about the joy found in proclaiming our faith, and how we can find inspiration in the works of Jesus’ first disciples.
“We, Christians of today, we have the joy of proclaiming and witnessing to our faith because there was that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who have responded generously to the call of Jesus,” he said.
Around the banks of a lake the first community of Disciples of Christ was formed, Francis continued. Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, James and John, while they are going about their usual work: fishing.
“The call reaches them in the fullness of their everyday activities,” the Pope pointed out. “The Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or sensational way, but in our daily lives.”
And in response to Jesus’ call, the men left their nets and followed him.
“Awareness of these beginnings will inspire in us a desire to bring the word, love and tenderness of Jesus in any context, even the most impervious and resistant.” Bring the word to all at the peripheries, he added.
“All spaces of human life are the soil in which to throw the seeds of the Gospel, to bear fruits of salvation.”
The message of Jesus to “Come and follow me” mirrors that of John the Baptist when he proclaimed the “Kingdom of Heaven,” Francis said.
This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, however, “but the fulfillment of the covenant between God and his people which will inaugurate a season of peace and justice.”
“To tighten this covenant with God, everyone is called to convert and to transform your way of thinking and living. This is not to change your clothes, but habits!” the Pope emphasized.
Invoking the Mother of God, he said “may the Virgin Mary help us with her motherly intercession to respond with joy to the call of Jesus and to put ourselves in the service of the Kingdom of God.”