Pope Mourns 175 Victims in Argentine Nightclub Fire

Telegram of Condolence Sent to Buenos Aires Archbishop

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed condolences for the 175 people who died in a Buenos Aires nightclub fire and he assured their family members of his prayers.

In a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the Pope expressed his sincere sorrow «for the numerous deaths caused by a fire in a discotheque. This event has brought mourning to many families of the beloved Argentine people.»

«The Holy Father has celebrated the Mass for the eternal repose of the deceased and assured their families of his prayers so that the Lord might grant them serenity and consolation in the face of the loss of their loved ones,» the telegram read. «The Pope also expressed his sympathy for those injured in the incident.»

Investigators said they believed that Thursday’s inferno started when someone set off a flare during a rock concert, igniting the foam ceiling of the club where the band Los Callejeros was performing. Three of the band members lost relatives in the tragedy.

According to the newspaper La Nación, moments after the ceiling caught fire the audience rushed toward the main entrance. The only emergency exit was locked with a chain, the paper said. The mayor of Buenos Aires, Aníbal Ibarra, declared that had the doors been open, many deaths could have been avoided.

More than 700 people were injured, some critically. The club had a legal capacity for 4,000, though some witnesses said that about 6,000 were on hand when the fire erupted.

The principal causes of death were suffocation and those trampled to death as they were trying to flee in panic. Most of the deceased were around 20 years of age.

The civil authorities have declared three days of mourning in the city.

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