Bishop: Don't Save Solidarity for Tragedy
8,000 Mourn Victims of Italy Earthquake
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L'AQUILA, Italy, APRIL 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Solidarity isn't just for a tragic event, says the secretary of the Italian episcopal conference.
Bishop Mariano Crociata, the retired bishop of Noto, said this today in L'Aquila, at the funeral held for 204 of the 289 victims of the deadly earthquake that hit the Abruzzo region. More than 8,000 turned out for the national service, presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state.
The bishop expressed "his personal solidarity" to Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L'Aquila, as well as that of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the president of Italy's episcopal conference, and of the "entire Italian Church."
Bishop Crociata recalled the tragedy of the 1968 earthquake that hit Sicily's Belice valley: "As on this occasion, then also there was a great effort of solidarity, a widespread sense among Italians of feeling themselves brothers, as though in a large family and this is very beautiful and significant."
"From these tragedies," the bishop added, "it is important to learn to be solidary in ordinary events, without waiting for tragic events."
Forty of the victims were university students. Father Luigi Epicoco, the chaplain of the university parish of L'Aquila, said he feels "somewhat guilty for not having been able to save them. I feel strongly my spiritual fraternity with the youth of the university, and their loss is excruciating.
"I am convinced that this suffering is destined to cement our church, the one not made of stone, but the living community."
"We must draw from the theological virtue of hope and start university life again immediately because L'Aquila without students will not be the same city," he added.
"Every family was hit," said Father Cesare Cardozo, the parish priest, and a native of Maracaibo, Venezuela.
"More than saying words, I am present to squeeze a hand, to offer encouragement," the priest said. "I have tried not to let the presence of the Eucharist be lacking. From the very beginning, we celebrated Mass in the open -- the first day, next to the bodies, which little by little were aligned on the grass -- together with relatives."
"Pray for us," he added, "and don't fail to express your closeness."