CASCIA, Italy — We are writing “with fear still in our hearts, as the strong earthquake on October 30 has forced us to abandon the monastery and to close the Basilica, because of severe damage to the structures.” These are the opening words of a message which the Augustinian nuns of Cascia have been circulating through a recent newsletter, asking for help. “The situation is tragic in Cascia,” the nuns write, “and in all the towns afflicted by the earthquake. […] The earth continues to tremble, and feeling you close to us gives us indescribable relief.”
The town of Cascia has suffered severe damage from the latest earthquake to hit Central Italy, but news agencies have only been able to report the news in recent days.
“We are all fine and, thanks be to God, the earthquake did not claim any victims,” the nuns write. “We have now had to make difficult decisions given the fact that our community is also comprised of very elderly nuns with health problems. To protect and care for our sisters in difficulty, this morning we decided to move a good part of the community to another monastery outside Umbria, which offered us welcome and will host us in the coming days. Despite this very difficult decision for us, in order to continue to ensure comfort and support to all those who are in need, several of us will remain here in Cascia.”
Cascia is one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites in Italy, and is visited by thousands of faithful each year. The situation is now truly surreal, with many homes now uninhabitable and damaged by the earthquake, and more than a thousand displaced people. The hospital is not safe and the sick have had to be evacuated. The streets are deserted, and the pilgrims have left the site of the spiritual birthplace of St. Rita and Blessed Teresa Fasce.
For the first time in Cascia’s history, the Basilica of St. Rita has been closed, and now the nuns are even forced to leave their monastery.