Pope Mourns for Crew of Space Shuttle Columbia

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II prayed for the victims of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disaster and expressed his spiritual closeness to the relatives.

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The spaceship ripped apart over Texas on Saturday as it re-entered the atmosphere after a 16-day mission.

When greeting the faithful gathered today in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope expressed his “distress” on hearing “the painful news of the tragic explosion,” which killed seven astronauts.

“I invite all to pray for the victims of the incident, who died while carrying out an international scientific mission,” the Holy Father said.

“At this time of harsh trial, I am spiritually close to the relatives, whom I assure of my remembrance in prayer,” he added.

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