Pope’s closeness to La Palma people hit by volcano
By Vatican News staff reporter
As Spain begins the process of rebuilding following a volcanic eruption in La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the local people.
Residents were told last Tuesday they could return home after a 3-month-long eruption was declared officially over on Christmas Day.
"I accompanied you at the time of the eruption and I accompany you in the reconstruction," the Pope said in a video message to the inhabitants of the island who have been suffering the consequences of the eruption of Cumbre Vieja volcano since September.
Bishop Bernardo Álvarez Afonso of San Cristóbal de La Laguna o Tenerife, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa, recorded the Pope’s video message Friday morning on his smartphone. He is among the third group of Spanish bishops currently on their ‘ad limina’ visit to Rome, a regulation visit that heads of dioceses around the world are required to make every 5 years or so, to report on the state of their jurisdictions. The bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Granada, Seville and Mérida-Badajoz, are in Rome from 17 to 22 January.
In the message, the Holy Father addressed a population that is facing a future of uncertainties, as thousands of people had to be evacuated and many lost their homes and even their jobs.
"It's difficult, but don't give up,” the Pope urged them. “Rebuilding always means taking a step forward. It means that defeat doesn't have the last word, it means never getting tired of looking at the horizon."
The Pope concluded his message to the people of La Palma assuring them of his closeness and prayer.
Earlier, Pope Francis also had similar words of closeness and affection for the people of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, where a massive underwater volcanic eruption on 15 January triggered tsunamis across the region that were felt as far afield as Australia, Japan and the Americas.
Cumbre Vieja began erupting on 19 September 2021 as a flank eruption at the volcanic ridge comprising the southern half of La Palma. At 85 days, it is the longest known eruption of a volcano on La Palma.
The eruption has caused the evacuation of around 7,000 people, destroyed more than 3,000 buildings and cut the coastal highway. The town of Todoque, including its easternmost neighbourhood Los Campitos, was completely destroyed by lava. Volcanic activity began decreasing in early December 2021 and stopped on 13 December. The government of the Canary Islands estimates damages of up to €843 million.