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Italy's island of comfort for victims of cruise ship wreck

GIGLIO, Italy -- When Father Lorenzo first saw the Costa Concordia last Friday evening, it was near Giglio's harbor.

The cruise liner looked beautiful but he remembers thinking it was far too close and didn't seem to be moving. When he looked a little later he knew there was an emergency: The bow seemed to be lifting out of the water. What followed has been an extraordinary week for this small island with a winter population of just a few hundred.


Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images

Life-vest, rope and helmets recovered from the Costa Concordia are seen during a mass celebrated on Sunday in the Isola del Giglio's church.

The Lorenzo e Mamiliano Church stands tall on a hill set back from the waterfront. Father Lorenzo believes it is symbolic that the church was the first building seen by the Costa Concordia's frightened passengers as they struggled ashore.

Soon enough a stream of survivors snaked its way to the church doors. Wet, scared and confused, most had no idea what had happened or where they were.

Through the night and into Sunday the church, school and kindergarten offered shelter. Local residents opened their homes, too. "This was the wonderful thing," says the padre.

Some needed spiritual guidance, others technological - and Father Lorenzo was able to help with both by offering prayers for survivors and his computer so they could reach friends and family on Skype.

The help continues. On Thursday, two sets of parents sat on his front pew. Their son and daughter were a French couple in their mid twenties who had been enjoying their first holiday together. Away from the noise of the harbor where police, salvage teams and journalists gather, the church was one of the few private places where they could quietly reflect on the lives that have been lost here.

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