Pope expresses 'heartfelt sympathy' after deadly Italian floods

Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt sympathy for the people killed, and thousands forced to evacuate their homes, as exceptional, torrential rains battered northern Italy, causing massive damage.

May 19, 2023

Aftermath of deadly floods in northern Italy

By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Fourteen people are dead and thousands more were evacuated from their homes following exceptional, torrential rains which battered northern Italy's Emilia-Romagna region and eastern provinces, triggering floods and landslides.

According to Civil Protection Minister, Nello Musumeci, some areas had received half their average annual rainfall in just 36 hours. Rivers burst their banks and water washed through towns, and submerged thousands of acres of farmland, according to news agency Reuters.

This catastrophe marks the latest episode of extreme weather and always-more-violent storms to strike the globe as the climate crisis intensifies.

Pope's heartfelt sympathy, prayers
Pope Francis expressed his "heartfelt sympathy" to the suffering and those affected by the extreme weather in Emilia Romagna, and especially the eastern provinces, in a telegram of condolences. It was sent Thursday on his behalf by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Vatican's Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, to the Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi.

The Holy Father asked the Cardinal to convey his sentiments of heartfelt sympathy to the relatives and friends of the victims of the disaster which struck the territory.

Comfort following 'grave calamity'
While assuring them of his fervent prayers of suffrage for the deceased and expressing condolences to their families, the Pope invoked comfort from God for the wounded, and consolation for those who are suffering the consequences "of the grave calamity."

Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to all those who, amid great difficulty, are working to bring relief and alleviate all suffering, and to diocesan communities "for their manifestation of communion and fraternal closeness to the most-tried populations."

The Holy Father concluded by offering his Apostolic Blessing to all, as a sign of special spiritual closeness. He also relayed the prayers of Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Caritas on the ground
Caritas has been on the ground working to help the suffering with relief efforts.

Father Marco Pagniello, Director of Caritas Italiana, said in a Thursday statement that they are working to obtain an updated picture of the situation and to identify together the first needs to be addressed, in coordination with the Presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference and the Bishops of the most-affected Dioceses.

The directors of the diocesan Caritas in the worst-hit areas, such as Cesena, Forlì, Faenza and Imola, the statement notes, tell of a situation that is still chaotic and in which, there is the need to clear away water and to clean houses submerged in mud.

Regional delegate, Mario Galasso, warned that many diocesan structures, such as emporiums and soup kitchens, have themselves been hit by the floods.

"Despite this," he said, "the various diocesan and parish Caritas are already active in hosting families and supporting them with the most immediate needs, such as drinking water, blankets, etc., and we will continue to work on these aspects in the coming days."

Climate Crisis provoking global tragedy
As the deadly Italian rains wreaked havoc, across the globe, various climate catastrophes are killing many people and causing dramatic damage.

Earlier this week, powerful Cyclone Mocha slammed between Myanmar’s port city of Sittwe and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to nearly one million mostly Rohingya refugees, killing at least six people, causing hundreds of injuries, and provoking a vast communications blackout that has left relief workers struggling to assess the extent of the damage. 

Meanwhile, the death toll in Malawi from tropical Cyclone Freddy has surpassed 1000, Malawi's President, Lazarus Chakwer, confirmed in April.--Vatican News

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