Hearing the mayor of Amatrice in central Italy say his town no longer exists and knowing there were children who died Aug. 24 in the earthquakes that struck the region, Pope Francis turned his weekly general audience into a prayer service.

Beginning the audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said he had prepared a normal audience talk on how the merciful Jesus is close to people, but given the devastation in central Italy, he decided to lead the recitation of the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary.

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