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Thousands turned out in the cathedral of the Sicilian city of Messina
to take part in the funeral service for the victims of the deadly
mudslides. At least 28 people were killed earlier this month when
rivers of mud tore down a mountainside flooding entire towns.
Family members and friends of the
victims of the mudslides gathered in the cathedral in silence. Church
and state leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi,
took part in the solemn service.
21 coffins draped in the
Italian flag were lined up below the church's altar. The names and ages
of the victims were read out one by one. Each name was followed by long
A message from Pope Benedict was read out in church.
The archbishop of Messina, Calogero la Piana, who celebrated the
service, said similar tragedies must never occur again.
that in this moment of sadness and mourning for the whole community of
Messina and Italy, we feel deeply and intimately united with those
affected by the recent tragedy.
Torrential rains October 1
caused the mudslides in the northeast of Sicily, near the coastal city
of Messina. Not all the bodies have yet been recovered. Some are still
missing and hundreds of people have been left homeless.
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of houses on the outskirts of the Sicilian city were swept away or
flattened by heavy rain and mud. The disaster sparked a row over
protection measures against flooding with local officials accusing the
government of ignoring their appeals for funds.
But the head of
the rescue services blamed shoddy building for the disaster, saying too
many houses had been built too close to rivers and the seafront in an
area hit by landslides two years ago.
In his homily the
archbishop said the management of the unique heritage of this beautiful
and fascinating territory, rich in colors, vegetation and art, is
lacking. Too often, he added, it is violated by the sin of men, by
neglect, by private and selfish interests and by perverse logic and all
types of speculations.
Saturday was declared a national day of
mourning. The Italian prime minister has promised to build new houses
for the victims of the mudslides, just like the ones that were built
for the victims of the earthquake in l'Aquila earlier this year. Coming
out of the cathedral on Saturday, Mr. Berlusconi said everything would
be done as quickly as possible.