UK & World News

  • 25 April 2014, 16:19

Pilgrim Crushed To Death By Giant Crucifix

An Italian man has been killed by a crucifix honouring John Paul II during a ceremony ahead of the late pope's canonisation.

Marco Gusmini, 21, was among pilgrims visiting the 30m (98 ft) high statue of Jesus Christ on the cross in the town of Cevo in northern Italy when it toppled over.

Cevo mayor Silvio Citroni said: "The boys ran in every direction when they heard the sound of the wood splintering". 

"Unfortunately, that poor boy went the wrong way."

Mr Gusmini, who reportedly had a minor motor disability which might have slowed him down as the cross fell, was killed instantly.

A Cevo resident said: "I heard a loud rumble and I couldn't understand where it came from.

"Then I heard shouting but I thought it was just the children playing, something like that.

"But then my husband called me and said 'Look, the pope's cross fell down.' And then I started shouting, saying 'But there are children there!'"

The accident happened just days before John Paul II is declared a saint in the Vatican on Sunday, along with another former pope, John XXIII.

The mayor said further celebrations to mark the popes' elevation to sainthood had been cancelled.

"It is an inexplicable tragedy. A young life, so many hopes, destroyed this way," he said.

The Jesus Christ statue fixed to the 30m cross was 6m high and weighed 600kg.

It was designed by the sculptor Enrico Job to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II to the region in 1998.

Job's widow, film director Lina Wertmuller, said: "The news has really shaken me. My thoughts go to the poor boy and his family.

"That cross was a great symbol for Italy, a symbol of protection. But all that seems silly in the face of this terrible tragedy."