The ferry Joola was carrying 796 people, including the crew. Reports on Saturday said there were only 63 survivors. Most of the dead were Senegalese, although there were also passengers from France, Spain, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia.
In a message sent to the apostolic nuncio in Senegal, John Paul II assures his prayers for “the families touched by this terrible tragedy,” and entrusts “the dead to the infinite mercy of God.”
The ship was sailing from Casamance, in southern Senegal, to Dakar, when it sank early Friday. Gambia is a narrow former British colony that divides north and south Senegal. Authorities have discovered numerous irregularities in the vessel.