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An unbroken statue of Our Lady stands among the ruins of Annunciation Cathedral in Alexandretta, Turkey, following a devastating earthquakeAntuan Ilgit SJ/Facebook

ALEXANDRETTA, Turkey (LifeSiteNews) — A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been preserved from destruction following a recent earthquake in Turkey, despite the cathedral in which it was housed falling to ruins. 

Following a devastating earthquake in the region on Monday, February 6, which has been attributed with killing more than 17,000 people, a statue of Our Lady residing in the nineteenth century Cathedral of the Annunciation in Alexandretta, of the Apostolic Vicarate of Anatolia, was left intact as the cathedral collapsed around it.

Father Antuan Ilgit, a Turkish Jesuit priest, took to social media in the aftermath of the earthquake to post pictures of the disaster and to ask for prayers for the Turkish people. He included in his pictures the untouched statue of Our Lady, standing among the rubble, as well as a likewise unbroken icon of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. 

“This image will be our strength and with her we will face everything,” the priest wrote in his Facebook post. 

In various other posts, Ilgit also shared pictures of the ruined cathedral, asking that the faithful “pray for us and for the people.” 

“It was a powerful earthquake,” he wrote. “We don’t have definite news yet. However, our cathedral is no more! Now the living stones that need attention are here, and with the help of God we will be able to rebuild everything.” 

The destruction of the cathedral occurred when, on Monday morning, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria. Only a few hours later another, only slighter smaller 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey, which has been shown to be one of the most seismically active places in the world, bringing further devastation. Thus far, over 17,000 deaths have been reported, with more expected.

On Tuesday morning, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency for the country. Nations from around the world have pledged support for Turkey, sending rescue teams and aid to help find any survivors. Canada has pledged $10 million in support of Turkish aid.

Pope Francis tweeted in support of Turkey and Syria on Tuesday morning, assuring victims of the devastation of his prayers while describing the event as an “appalling tragedy.”

Despite the suffering, the damage, and the fray, Ilgit reminded people that “trust in God and His Holy Providence” must come first.