Pope praises how Moroccan people tried to save boy

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On Sunday, Pope Francis called “magnificent” the way people rallied around efforts – ultimately proven futile – to save the life of a 5-year-old boy who was trapped in a well for days in a village in Morocco.

Francis expressed his thanks to the Moroccan people as he greeted the audience in St. Peter’s Square. He praised people for “going out of their way” to try to save the child.

Morocco’s royal palace said on Saturday night, shortly after the boy, Rayan, was pulled from the 32-metre (105ft) deep shaft that he was dead.

Francis said amid bad news from around the world, it was “magnificent” how the Moroccan people rallied behind Rayan in a rescue operation that captured the world’s attention.

“We are used to seeing, reading in the media, so many ugly things, bad news, accidents, murders,” the pontiff said. But it was “magnificent” how in Morocco a whole people clung to each other to save Rayan, Francis said.

The pontiff’s praise followed Saturday night’s praise from King Mohammed VI, who hailed the rescuers for their hard work and the community for supporting Rayan’s family.

Hundreds of villagers and others had gathered to witness the rescue operation in the village of Ighran in the mountainous province of Chefchaouen in northern Morocco. The child had been stuck in the narrow well since the evening of February 1.

Rayan’s fate strangely struck a chord in Italy. In 1981, a 6-year-old boy fell into a narrow well in the countryside outside Rome, eventually plunging 60 meters (nearly 200 feet). Volunteers heard him cry as they parallel dug in what ended in a futile three-day attempt to save him. Hundreds of people gathered around the rescue site and millions watched the efforts on state television.

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