ROME — An Italian bishop says Pope Francis was among the many in Rome jolted awake by last week’s earthquake and immediately went to celebrate a Mass for those suffering in the catastrophe.
Bishop Domenico Pompili has told Corriere della Sera newspaper that Francis called him three times last Wednesday, first at 7 a.m., 3 1/2 hours after the quake struck. He said Francis was especially concerned about the children caught up in the disaster.
Pompili’s diocese includes the Apennines Mountain town of Amatrice, which saw the most dead in Italy’s Aug. 24 earthquake, 229 of the 290 confirmed dead so far.
Italy’s government has heeded the anger of quake survivors and will hold a state funeral for many of the 290 dead in Amatrice, the town hardest-hit by the quake, instead of at an airport hangar 40 miles away.
Earlier Monday, survivors in Amatrice, where at least 229 people perished in the Aug. 24 earthquake, started shouting angrily after authorities informed them the funeral Mass would be celebrated Tuesday evening at Rieti airport.
Townspeople yelled they wanted to have the service in Amatrice, a medieval town in the central Apennine mountains devastated by the quake. Among those incensed was Sergio Pirozzi, the town’s mayor.
Shortly afterward, Pirozzi told his fellow citizens that Italian Premier Matteo Renzi had just called him and told him that Tuesday’s state funeral would be held in Amatrice after all.
With thousands left homeless after Italy’s earthquake, authorities are debating how to provide warmer, sturdier housing for them besides the rows of emergency blue tents set up in the Apennine Mountains, where even summer nights can get chilly.
Nearly 2,700 people needing shelter following the Aug. 24 temblor are staying in 58 tent camps or other shelters arranged by Italy’s Civil Protection agency. Others are staying in a gym in the hardest-hit town, Amatrice and some are sleeping in cars near their damaged homes.
Italian architect Renzo Piano met Premier Matteo Renzi on Sunday. Speaking to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Piano proposed building temporary wooden homes near the three devastated towns in central Italy so traumatized people could stay near their roots.
No housing decisions have been announced yet.