Pope Francis met this week with a group of Chilean miners who spent more than two months in a collapsed mine in 2010, before a dramatic rescue that many have hailed as miraculous.
The miners had a chance to meet the Pope after his weekly general audience. They presented him with a miner’s helmet and other gifts.
Among those present to meet the Holy Father were Ariel Ticona, one of the miners who was trapped underground, along with his five-year-old daughter, Esperanza, who was born during the time that he was in the mine.
On Aug. 5, 2010, a cave-in occurred at the San Jose copper and gold mine, trapping 33 men underground. For the next 69 days, they remained trapped under a half-mile of rock deep beneath Chile’s Atacama Desert, as an international emergency team worked around the clock until their rescue on Oct. 13.
During part of that time, they were able to maintain limited communication with the world above through a small passageway. They were given supplies and a crucifix, and they requested statues of Mary and the saints in order to set up a make-shift chapel in the mine.
All 33 men survived the more than two months underground, despite the confined space and heat in the mine, as well as the limited food, water and air.
The rescue efforts captured the attention and prayers of the world. Pope Benedict XVI sent personally blessed rosaries to the family members of each buried miner with a promise of his prayers. Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago celebrated a Mass with their loved ones.
The bishops of Chile publically thanked Pope Benedict for his special prayers at the time of the rescue.
Marking the fifth anniversary of the rescue, the miners gathered in Rome. In addition to meeting with Pope Francis, they attended a screening of an upcoming movie about their story, by Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures.
The film – entitled “The 33” and starring Antonio Banderas – tells the true story of the miners’ ordeal, their struggle to survive, and their reliance on faith throughout their two months in the mine.
“The 33” will be released in theaters next month.