An earthquake in northern Italy has killed at least seven people, caused serious damage to buildings in several towns and left about 3000 people homeless. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck in the middle of Saturday night, about 35km north of the city of Bologna.

Caritas Italy’s Director Don Francesco Soddu immediately traveled to the affected area. He said, “We’re close to the people in prayer and to particular the families of the victims. We will support the local church in providing aid.”

Pope Benedict XVI said that he was “spiritually close to those affected by this calamity” during his regular Sunday Angelus greeting in St. Peter’s Square.

Don Soddu discussed the response with local Caritas staff, inculding the directors of Caritas Emilia-Romagna, Modena and Bologna and Arcbishop Paolo Rabitti of Ferrara-Comacchio. Local Caritas staff members are ready to provide shelter and first aid.

The quake was the worst to hit the country since the L’Aquila tremor killed nearly 300 people in central Italy in 2009.