Sunday, August 19, 2007

In the Cross, there is Hope

Peruvians weep at church statues that survive quake

PISCO, Peru (Reuters) - Peruvian earthquake survivors on Saturday wept and hugged statues of Jesus Christ and Catholic saints dug out intact from the rubble of a church where at least 150 people died three days earlier.

Rescue workers placed the life-sized statues in the main square in Pisco, the Pacific coast town that was among the hardest hit by a 8.0 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday that killed more than 500 people in Peru. The Church of San Clemente, where most of the Pisco victims died, was crushed during a funeral mass.

Desperate and ragged residents, most of them hungry people who haven't slept under a roof since the quake, thronged around the Christ statue in amazement as it was carried in procession into the square by half a dozen men in hard hats and masks. The survival of the religious figures gave people hope and something to celebrate in their desolation in this predominantly Catholic country.

"The Lord is present here with us, along with the saints, it's a miracle they weren't destroyed," said Amelia Ugaz de Aria, 69, whose home was flattened by the earthquake. . . .

Lourdes Girau, 42, sobbed as she kneeled before Jesus and with a rag dusted off the wooden cross he was staked to. "The fact that he's here, shows Jesus continues to live to fight so much tragedy," Girau said.

Townspeople rushed to hold the hands of San Clemente or caress the face of Jesus, their fingers tracing the painted blood stains streaming down his skin.

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