Pope Francis, saddened by an earthquake that struck central Italy overnight, on Wednesday canceled a speech he was to have given at his general audience and instead prayed with the crowd for victims and survivors.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists and hearing that there are children among the victims, I am deeply saddened," he told tens of thousands of people who had gathered in St. Peter's Square for his general audience.

Amatrice was one of the mountain towns hit by the quake. At least 20 people were believed to have died in the disaster, with many dozens still missing.

Francis said he would postpone his weekly address on religious teachings until next week and asked the crowd to pray with him for the victims of the quake.