Pilgrims killed in crash after visiting Padre Pio shrine

Pope Francis has sent his 'deepest condolences' and is offering 'fervent prayers' as family and friends gathered to mourn the 38 people who died in a bus accident returning from a shrine to St Padre Pio, reports the Catholic News Agency.

'Profoundly saddened by the news of the tragic accident (last Sunday), the Pope raises fervent prayers for the souls of the deceased and conveys his deepest condolences to their families,' reads a telegram sent by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on the Pope’s behalf.

Pope Francis is also praying for the 'rapid recovery of the injured, and imparts the comfort of an apostolic blessing as a sign of consolation for those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.'

The families of the 38 victims gathered on yesterday (July 30) at the Alfonso Trincone sports hall in the Monterusciello neighborhood for a group funeral, presided over by Bishop Gennaro Pascarella of Pozzuoli.

The funeral was attended by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.

The approximately 4,000 people at the funeral heard Bishop Pascarella urged the authorities to find out what caused the accident and prevent it from ever happening again. In a July 29 statement, the Pozzuoli bishop reflected on the grief being experienced by the families.

'In the face of tragedies like the one involving so many of our fellow citizens and faithful,' he said, 'every word is inadequate to express the pain, the anxiety, the anguish of people who suddenly found themselves without a father or mother, without a husband or wife, without a brother or a sister, without a son or daughter.'


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Pope joins in prayers for Italian bus crash victims (CNA)

STORY At least 38 pilgrims killed in bus crash after visiting Padre Pio shrine (CNS)