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Rome Reports

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Pope's silent and moving visit to quake-stricken towns in central Italy

The pope paid a surprise visit to the Italian towns destroyed by the earthquake on August 24. He started in this school, which has had to move to a prefab house. There he greeted this man who lost his wife and two children in the earthquake.  He then went to the "red zoneâ?, the most affected by the earthquake. There, he thanked the firefighters for having saved many lives. "Your visit is a very important message to the people, but also for those of us who are working here.â? "These people have lost everything.â? "I have come to help us look forward.â? He then prayed in silence in front of the piles of rubble.  After that he went to a nursing home where they tend to the chronically ill and to people with special needs. Many of them were left homeless after the earthquake. He visited Accumoli, one of the most affected towns. There he prayed in front of the ruins of the Church of St. Francis. The pope was speechless in the face of such overwhelming destruction... Some could not hold back their tears during the visit. The pope told the townspeople that he wanted to pray with them and tell them that they are not alone.  Later, he stopped the car to contemplate and more fully understand the losses the people had suffered. "This was a wonderful town.â? He also saw these tents, which are now makeshift classrooms after the a school was destroyed. He finished his visit in San Pellegrino di Norcia, where he stopped to see the church.  "The belltower was there.â? There, standing in silence, he blessed the ruins of the temple.  JMB/ag CTV VM - BN Up:JRB