Papal Note of Condolence Sent to India

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 18, 2004 ( John Paul II expressed sorrow over the school fire in India that killed 90 children and told of his “closeness in prayer” to all affected by the tragedy.

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The Pope expressed his condolences in a telegram sent Saturday to Indian authorities by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The Holy Father “assures all those affected by this terrible tragedy of his closeness in prayer,” reads the text in English, published by the Vatican press office.

He commended the victims “to the merciful love of God” and invoked for their relatives and for the wounded “the divine blessings of consolation, strength and healing.”

When hearing news of the fire on Friday, the Pope was “affected in a particular way” because the tragedy involved children, said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.

Authorities were investigating the blaze at the Lord Krishna Middle School in Kumbakonam, which appeared to have started in a makeshift kitchen. Kumbakonam is in Tamil Nadu state, in southern India. Almost all the dead were younger than 10. Ten other children were still hospitalized, the Associated Press reported.

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