Pope mobbed by frenzied faithful as he visits quake-devastated towns
Pope Francis was mobbed by tens of thousands of enthusiastic faithful as he visited a northern region of Italy which has largely been rebuilt from a pair of deadly earthquakes five years ago.
His first stop in the Emilia Romagna region was the quake-damaged Duomo cathedral of Carpi, where he laid a bouquet of white flowers at the foot of a statue of the Madonna inside.
After years of restoration, the cathedral reopened just last weekend.
"There are those who remain buried in the rubble of life," the pope said in his homily before an estimated 20,000 gathered in the piazza outside the cathedral for an open-air Mass.
"There are those, like you, who with the help of God rise from the rubble to rebuild."
Another 50,000 people watched the Mass on screens throughout the city of 70,000.
During his day-long visit, the pope also met families who lost loved ones in the quake and hold a discussion with priests, nuns and seminarians.
He later visited the town of Mirandola, where the crowd included family members of people killed in a pair of 2012 earthquakes. Francis laid a bouquet of flowers at the altar of the cathedral, which is still under scaffolding five years after the quake and not functioning as a house of worship.
He thanked the people of Mirandola "for the example you gave to all humanity, the example of courage to go ahead".
A 6.1-magnitude quake on August 24 last year in Italy's central regions of Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche killed nearly 300 people and toppled thousands of buildings.
It was followed by a series of quakes in October, including the strongest in Italy in nearly four decades at 6.6-magnitude, but there were no further deaths due to previous evacuations.