Vatican quake appeal: restore church treasures

The Vatican appealed to experts worldwide to volunteer to restore paintings and other treasures from churches devastated in quakes this week in central Italy. Francesco Buranelli, a senior official of the commission that cares for the Vatican's cultural wealth, told The Associated Press Wednesday he hopes restoration laboratories will "adopt" damaged objects from churches in the mountain town of L'Aquila and surrounding countryside. In Monday's 6.3-magnitude quake, with its epicenter near the medieval city, church belltowers toppled, cupolas broke apart and in some cases, entire churches were reduced to piles of stone, dust and wood. Damage was so severe to L'Aquila's churches "that at the moment, none of them can be used" by the faithful, said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman. Laboratories abroad could restore such precious objects as crucifixes, paintings on canvas or wood, chalices and altar cloths. Other damaged parts, such as wall frescoes or domes, which could not be flown around the world for restoration, would be cared for by Italian experts, Buranelli said.