Pastors mourn victims of tragic Alpine avalanche in Italy

ROME – After an avalanche in northern Italy left several dead over the weekend, regional church leaders have mourned the tragedy and expressed their solidarity with the victims and their families.

In a statement on Monday, the day after the accident, Archbishop Lauro Tisi of the Diocese of Trento and Bishop Renato Marangoni of Belluno said: “The ice has destroyed the lives of many people, too many.”

“Our closeness and deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families,” they said in a joint statement, adding, “In the face of this unprecedented tragedy, only the strength of the fraternal embrace that is able to shed some light remains bring darkness that overwhelms us all at this hour.”

At least 13 people are still missing and seven people are known to have been killed after the collapse of a glacial boulder in northeast Italy on Sunday caused an avalanche that tumbled down a popular hiking trail on the Alpine peak of Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites.

The victims and missing people come from all over the world, including Italy, the Czech Republic and Austria.

A large glacier on the Marmolada, also called “Queen of the Dolomites”, is the largest glacier in the Dolomites and is located in the Trentino region.

The part of the glacier that collapsed is near Punta Rocca, along a hiking route used by many trekkers to reach the top of the peak. The ice fell a day after local temperatures hit a record high of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

It has long been a popular skiing and hiking area, but depending on the season the ice has been melting away in recent years.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday, blamed climate change for the incident, saying that while the tragedy had unforeseen factors at play, the tragedy also “depends on the deterioration of the environment and the climate situation.” .

In conversation with the Italian newspaper futurethe official newspaper of the Italian bishops, Father Mario Bravin of the parish of Sacred Heart in Canazei, the village below the avalanche, gave an insight into the first rescue efforts.

Bravin, who is also a fireman – identified by future as deputy valley inspector of the permanent fire brigade in the area – said that initial rescue efforts were coordinated with Alpine Rescue and a team of rescue dogs in the first hours after the incident.

A flag was erected where the dogs stopped and began to bark. Rescuers then began digging, breaking off ice and gravel that Bravin said was like “concrete” late into the day.

After recovering some wounded and the bodies of several deceased under “the first layer of ice”, rescuers had to leave because of the dangerous conditions as the area is still precarious and more ice “can still fall down”.

The valley’s firefighters, Bravin said, are “well prepared and trained,” with constant updates to their training process.

He also praised the emotional support provided by the firefighters on the job, saying that while they are not psychologists, they know how to deal with grief in these situations and are willing to help with funeral arrangements and the victims and to give consolation to their loved ones families.

“This is really a tragedy, no one expected such a collapse. We all know temperatures are rising, but the trail was very low, it wasn’t expected that there could be so much ice already,” he said.

Referring to conversations he and other firefighters had with family members of victims, Bravin said, “Even firefighters never get used to pain, to facing suffering and distressed family members. It touches your heart.”

In addition to contributing to the rescue effort, Bravin also organized and led a moment of prayer for the victims Monday, saying it was “a surrender of the victims to the Lord, a prayer for family members who are suddenly faced with tragedy.” This is a great tragedy.”

As a further sign of closeness to the deceased and their families, Tisi – in agreement with the mayor of the city, Giovanni Bernard, and the president of the province of Trento, Maurizio Fugatti – will celebrate a special mass on July 9 in Canazei.

Both Tisi, who is attending a three-day pastoral session with diocese clergy, and Marangoni kept in touch with Bravin throughout the day to update on the status of the rescue effort and how family members were dealing with the tragedy.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

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