(Vatican Radio) Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, one of two Italian dioceses worst hit by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake Wednesday morning, was present in Pescara del Tronto and Ascoli to comfort his flock and dig through the rubble for survivors.
Listen to Chris Altieri's report:
In an interview with Vatican Radio's Debora Donnini on Thursday morning, Bishop D'Ercole said: "The word which keeps returning most often is this: 'Don't abandon us, because we now have nothing left.'"
The bishop said he remained among his people in Pescara del Tronto until midnight Wednesday before returning to Ascoli where people were sleeping outside for fear of further aftershocks.
Bishop D'Ercole added he dug through the rubble of the ruined church of Pescara del Tronto for an unexpected surprise. "I was able to recover a Crucifix from the rubble with my own hands, and I found that the only image left intact in the church of Pescara del Tronto is that of Our Lady of Perpetual Help."
On Wednesday evening, he celebrated Mass in the chapel of Hospital Mazzoni in Ascoli Piceno. "The celebration of Mass for the bodies had a strong emotive impact... It was a celebration which recalled the death of Jesus and the suffering of seeing these people holding on to their [deceased] little ones."
Pope Francis postponed the catechesis of his Wednesday General Audience and prayed the rosary with pilgrims for the victims and survivors of the quake.
Bishop D'Ercole told a related story he witnessed with his own eyes. "Yesterday a mother spent the entire day with a Rosary in her hand, hugging one of our volunteers. This woman had lost her mother and son under the rubble. She was desperately hoping that they would be found alive. When the miracle for which she had hoped did not occur, she told me: 'That's how God wanted it; that's how Jesus wanted it.'"
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