11 Apr 2009

Pope prays for quake survivors

10:13 am on 11 April 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has offered a special prayer for survivors of Monday's quake in Italy.

The 6.3 magnitude quake destroyed and damaged about 10,000 buildings. At least 289 people were killed. Almost 40,000 are homeless.

During a Good Friday procession in Rome, the pope listened to meditations that began by urging the faithful not to lose faith in trying times. They were written by Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil.

"When misfortune hits us close to home, we grow disheartened. When we fall direct victims of a disaster, our self-confidence is totally shaken and our faith is put to the test. But all is not lost yet," Menamparampil wrote.

Flags in Italy flew at half-mast on a national day of mourning on Friday, shops closed their shutters and airports halted take-offs, observing a minute's silence.

Pope Benedict granted a special dispensation to allow a funeral for quake victims to be held earlier in the day in the city of L'Aquila, the worst hit by the quake.

Mass is not usually celebrated on Good Friday.