Pope Benedict XVI paid an emotional visit to the areas affected by the earthquakes in Emilia Romagna last Tuesday, personally greeting the residents, security forces, and restoration workers in Carpi and Rovereto Di Novi near Modena.
Arriving in the morning by helicopter from the Vatican, the pontiff toured by jeep through the "red zone", the area most affected by the earthquakes and a potential new fault line, to see the damage for himself.
The pontiff stopped to pray at the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Rovereto Di Novi, where Father Ivan Martini died under a collapsed roof trying to rescue the village's statue of the Madonna during the May 29th earthquake.
After speaking with Martini's brother, who has been integral to the local relief efforts, the Pope spoke to the hundreds who gathered in the square to greet him. He bid them unite around the church and memory of Father Martini as the symbols of all earthquake victims before returning to Carpi to pledge his support, thoughts, and prayers to the clergy, faithful, and civil representatives gathered there.
Throughout the region, residents fear that reconstruction efforts will be hampered by dwindling institutional interest and mafia intervention, but the Pope told the gathered public during his visit that he would take a personal role in monitoring the rebuilding process. "Caritas will always be by your side, as will the many volunteers", he assured them.
Pope Benedict XVI has donated 100.000 euros to the relief efforts through the Cor Unum Catholic humanitarian relief agency and will also send 500.000 euros to bishops in the effects areas to support the families hardest hit by the recent events. The Italian bishops' conference has pledged an addition 3 million euros.
Individuals can contribute directly by supporting relief funds, including the Civil Protection Department, the Red Cross, the Slow Food collection for affected food producers, volunteering, and buying earthquake Parmesan.