John Paul II Offers Prayers for Italian Quake Victims

26 Children Among the Dead

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 1, 2002 ( John Paul II relayed his condolences and promise of prayers to a quake-stricken area of Italy that was stunned by the deaths of 26 schoolchildren.

“The dramatic news of the violent earthquake,” said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano in a telegram to Bishop Tomasso Valentinetti of Termoli-Larino, “has filled the heart of the Supreme Pontiff with consternation.”

“In assuring fervent prayers for the victims, particularly the children involved in the collapse of the school at San Giuliano di Puglia, His Holiness invokes the Lord for comfort for their families,” the telegram read, “and meanwhile he sends an affectionate word of encouragement to the survivors.”

“And to all those who in various ways are doing all they can in the rescue operations, he directs a special apostolic blessing,” the cardinal’s telegram says.

The earthquake in the Molise region about 50 northeast of Naples toppled a school in the mountain village, killing nearly the entire first-grade class, the Associated Press said. Three adults also died.

Cardinal Sodano also sent a condolence telegram to Archbishop Armando Dini of Campobasso-Boiano whose jurisdiction was also affected by a quake.

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