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Pope Benedict XVI Prays for Quake Victims

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer   In response to the deadly earthquake that struck central Italy this morning, Pope Benedict XVI said he is not only praying for the victims and their families, but also expressed “heartfelt participation” in their suffering. A powerful earthquake struck the mountainous region of central Italy at approximately 3:30 a.m. this morning while residents were still sleeping. The death toll stands at 70 people thus far with 1,500 injured and tens of thousands left homeless. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was a magnitude 6.3 and was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks. The quake hit 26 towns and cities around L'Aquila, which lies in a valley surrounded by the Apennine mountains and is about 70 miles northeast of  Rome. It is a quake-prone region that experienced at least nine smaller jolts in the last few days. According to the Associated Press (AP), L'Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente said about 100,000 people were homeless. It was not clear if that estimate included surrounding towns. Some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed, officials said. In the aftermath of the quake, while the ground beneath them continued to rumble with aftershocks, residents covered in dust were seen hugging one another, praying quietly or frantically tried to call relatives. Many pushed carts full of clothes and blankets that they had thrown together before fleeing their homes. "We left as soon as we felt the first tremors,"  Antonio D'Ostilio, 22, told the AP as he stood on a street in L'Aquila with a huge suitcase piled with clothes. "We woke up all of a sudden and we immediately ran downstairs in our pajamas." Evacuees converged on an athletics field on the outskirts of L'Aquila where a makeshift tent camp was being set up. Civil protection officials distributed bread and water to people who lay on the grass next to heaps of their belongings. "It's a catastrophe and an immense shock," said resident Renato Di Stefano, who was moving with his family to the camp as a precaution. "It's struck in the heart of the city, we will never forget the pain." Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared a state of emergency, freeing up federal funds to deal with the disaster, and canceled a visit to Russia so he could deal with the quake crisis. The Pope’s message, which was sent to Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L'Aquila, Italy, said he is praying for the victims, their families, and those who are helping in the rescue operations. He also extended his apostolic blessing to everyone involved in the disaster. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace. http://www.womenofgrace.com

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