AP NEWS

Pope dons helmet to enter earthquake-hit cathedral in Italy

June 16, 2019
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Pope Francis wears a safety helmet as he arrives to visit the earthquake damaged Cathedral of Camerino, Italy, Sunday, June 16, 2019. The pontiff will be celebrating mass in front of the cathedral that was heavily damaged by the 2016 earthquake that hit the central Italian Marche region. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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Pope Francis wears a safety helmet as he arrives to visit the earthquake damaged Cathedral of Camerino, Italy, Sunday, June 16, 2019. The pontiff will be celebrating mass in front of the cathedral that was heavily damaged by the 2016 earthquake that hit the central Italian Marche region. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

CAMERINO, Italy (AP) — Pope Francis donned a white firefighter’s safety helmet Sunday to enter a damaged cathedral during a visit to central Italy, where he gave encouragement to people still struggling three years after devastating earthquakes struck.

Francis traveled to the town of Camerino, which was shaken so badly in 2016 that people are still not allowed into the town center as work continues to stabilize buildings.

Before he entered the cathedral, a firefighter’s safety helmet was placed over Francis’ skullcap. Inside the cathedral, he was surrounded by firefighters and clergymen also wearing helmets. He placed flowers at a statue of the Virgin Mary, which was damaged in the earthquake. The statue’s head and arms are missing.

The image of Francis wearing a helmet mirrored the scene in Paris on Saturday of churchmen, including the archbishop of Paris, wearing hard hats as they celebrated the first Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral since a fire ravaged the landmark and toppled its spire on April 15.