Pope Fran­cis makes sur­prise visit to earth­quake town Ama­trice

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Pope Fran­cis has made an unan­nounced visit to Ama­trice, the cen­tral Ital­ian town dev­as­tated by an earth­quake six weeks ago.

Large crowds gathered yes­ter­day as the pon­tiff ar­rived at a lo­cal school where he met chil­dren, sur­vivors and rel­a­tives of the vic­tims.

He said he wanted the visit to be made in pri­vate in or­der to be closer to those di­rectly af­fected. The mag­ni­tude-6.2 quake in Au­gust killed nearly 300 peo­ple. In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the dis­as­ter, au­thor­i­ties ad­vised the Pope that it was un­safe to visit the re­gion.

The 79-year-old also vis­ited Ac­cu­moli, where a build­ing col­lapsed fol­low­ing the quake, and Arquata del Tronto, where homes were re­duced to rub­ble.

The Pope con­firmed his in­ten­tion to visit Ama­trice on Sun­day, but did not spec­ify when he would ar­rive.

Vat­i­can spokesper­son Greg Burke posted a pho­to­graph on Twit­ter of Pope Fran­cis af­ter he was ap­proached in his car by a lo­cal res­i­dent who wanted to show her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his visit.

Ger­ard O’Con­nell, an Ir­ish jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Rome, posted a tweet quot­ing Pope Fran­cis as say­ing: “I am close to you, I pray for you.”

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