Friday was a day of national mourning in Italy. A mass funeral was held for the 287 victims of the deadly earthquake that devastated the town of L’Aquila. The funeral day coincided with Good Friday, one of the most somber days on the Christian calendar.
The Archbishop of L’Aquila, Giuseppe Molinari, presided over the Mass honouring the deceased.
He was joined by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a senior Vatican official representing Pope Benedict XVI, and by Georg Ganswein, the Pope’s personal secretary.
Shortly before the start of the special funeral mass, Cardinal Bertone and Monsignor Ganswein, got a bird’s eye view of the area. From high above, they were able to survey the damage.
Ganswein later conveyed the Pope’s message to the families and friends of the victims:
"In moments like these, the sources of light and hope are faith, which in these very days speak to us about the suffering of the Son of God made man for us: His passion, His death and His resurrection are all a source of comfort and they open the hearts of everyone in the contemplation of that life in which, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
As a sign of solidarity, the Pope sent sacred oils and a chalice used at a Holy Thursday Mass to the earthquake victims.
Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and other senior political officials were among the thousands of mourners.
Because many of the churches in the region were badly damaged and deemed unsafe, the funeral was held outdoors.
Vatican officials say the Pope’s visit to the area is likely to happen shortly after the Easter holiday.