Pope Francis announced on Sunday that he intends to visit the villages in central Italy devastated by this week's earthquake, which left nearly 300 people dead.
"As soon as possible, I hope to come and see you, to bring you the comfort of faith, the tenderness of a father and a brother, and the hope and support that Christianity has to offer," the Argentine pontiff told thousands of worshippers gathered for the Angelus prayer on Saint Peter's square.
He also expressed a "spiritual closeness" to residents of the mountain villages in a remote area straddling the Umbria, Marche and Lazio regions that were struck by Wednesday's earthquake.
"I want to tell these beloved people once again that the Church shares in their suffering and their concerns," he said.
Italy mourned this weekend the deaths of at least 291 people, according to the latest count.