Giant Crucifix Dedicated to Pope Crushes Pilgrim

He dies just days before John Paul II's sainthood
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2014 1:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Tragedy struck just days before the canonization of Pope John Paul II when a giant crucifix dedicated to the late pontiff crushed an unfortunate pilgrim in northern Italy. The victim, 21-year-old Marco Gusmini, was posing for photographs with other members of a group of young Catholics in front of the 100-foot wooden cross when it suddenly collapsed yesterday, the Telegraph reports. The local mayor calls the collapse of the cross, which bore a 20-foot, 1,300-pound statue of Christ, an "unexplainable tragedy."

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"When they heard the crunching noises coming from the cross they fled in all directions," the mayor says. "Unfortunately Marco ran in the wrong direction." In a strange twist, the young man lived on a street named after Pope John XXIII, who will also be canonized on Sunday in a ceremony expected to bring 800,000 pilgrims to Rome, the Daily Mail reports. Bizarre as it is, the tragedy has precedent: A decade ago, a 72-year-old woman in southern Italy was killed when a 7-foot metal crucifix fell on her, the BBC notes. (Last week in the Philippines, men crucified themselves in a grisly Good Friday tradition.)

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