Courage and hope. The words delivered by Pope Francis in Mirandola, in front of the Cathedral that still bears the visible scars of the earthquake that hit the area five years ago, outline the significance of his pastoral visit to the diocese of Carpi, Sunday April2. A “family” day, in the intentions of Bergoglio, despite the large public attendance in public events: 50 thousand people attended the Mass in Martyrs Square in Carpi, while the square outside the Mirandola’s Cathedral was filled with people and crowds stood on the pavement along the two sides of the road followed by the Pope. Only the Bishops of the region, the elderly priests resident in the House of the Clergy and seminarians, were allowed to participate in the lunch with the Pope. The following meeting in the seminary, during which Francis delivered an impromptu speech before the priests of Carpi, seminarians, religious men and women, also took place behind closed doors.
The memory of the seism and the commitment for reconstruction was the leading theme of the Pope’s visit. In fact, the diocese of Carpi suffered the most serious damages in the 2012 earthquake. A week ahead of the inauguration of the restored cathedral with Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, the motto is once again “Vita semper vincit”, life always wins.
“There are those who are still trapped in the rubble of life and those who, like you, with the help of God, rise up from the rubble and rebuild with patient hope”, the Pope said in the homily during the Holy MassAt the end of the celebration, the Bishop of Carpi, Msgr. Francesco Cavina, recalled that on this land “the population stood out for their laboriousness, entrepreneurship, welcome, and solidarity”; these “social and human virtues are rooted in the faith in Christ throughout the centuries”, which “enabled to heal, in a relatively short amount of time, many of the painful wounds inflicted on these lands by the devastating earthquake of 2012.”
Pope Francis then thanked “all those who helped with this double “marathon”, with a special thought for the AGESCI scouts, who for this special occasion and ahead of the solemn reopening of the Cathedral, helped organized this event, along with 4500 sick people attending the Mass. “With your sufferings you help the Church, you help to carry the cross of Christ”, the Pope told them. At the end of the celebration, after having approached with the Popemobile the faithful that followed the Holy Mass from the giant screens on King Astolfo Square, His Holiness returned to Martyrs Square and exited the vehicle to greet and bless old people, disabled and children, like a priest at the end of Sunday Mass.
A powerful symbol of the reconstruction is represented by the blessing of the “first four stones”, placed beneath the altar, that will serve as foundations of the new parish church of Saint Agata Cibeno in Carpi, of the new religious centre of Sant’Antonio in Mercadello in Novi, of the Citadel of Charity in Carpi and of the multi-purpose facility in San Martino Carano di Mirandola. The latter in particular was not a simple brick but a stone that once formed part of the Church of the Immaculate Conception that was destroyed by ISIS, given to Bishop Cavina during his recent visit at the beginning of March, the first Italian Bishop to celebrate Mass in the Nineveh Plains after the liberation.
In the afternoon the Pope visited Mirandola to experience first hand the wounds of the seism. Along the way, as the epicentre of the earthquake draws close, we see the signs of the reconstruction works that made significant progress in the past five years, but a lot still needs to be done. For the Church of Carpi, the Duomo of Mirandola is the emblem of an ongoing commitment.
“It is my hope that the strength of heart, the hope and the qualities of industriousness that set you apart will never be lacking”,
Francis said addressing the populations affected by the 2012 earthquake, whom he thanked for “your example of dignity and resourcefulness” that “inspired great admiration in all.” Before concluding his day in the region, paying tribute to the monument to earthquake victims of San Giacomo Roncole, the Pope – who “laid a flower tribute commemorating the victims of the earthquake” – conveyed his “closeness” and “encouragement for the path that still lies ahead in reconstruction”, mindful of the “hardships” and especially of the “inner wounds” “of those who lost their loved ones and those who have seen the disappearance of a lifetime’s sacrifices.”
“Wounds have healed”, the Pope said. “But the scars remain, and will remain for a lifetime. And looking at these scars, have the courage to grow and to raise your children in that dignity, in that fortitude, in that spirit of hope, in that courage you had at the time of the wounds.”The Pope extended his thoughts to the need for continuing the reconstruction, especially “for the recovery of historical centres”, “places of historical memory and essential spaces for social and ecclesial life.” Those words were followed by the announcement made by the Bishop of Carpi, namely that “the diocese has obtained all the permissions needed to start reparation works, restoration and seismic improvement of the Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta in Mirandola before the summer”. Thus the population has two reasons to celebrate: the dream of returning to live and celebrate their faith in the ancient Duomo is now coming true.