Papal Grief for Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 17, 2005 ( Benedict XVI sent a message of condolence to express his grief for the death of 17 Spanish peacekeepers who died in a military helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

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In a telegram sent by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, the Pope expressed his “profound sorrow” after learning the “painful news” of the soldiers’ death, and said he offered prayers for their “eternal rest” and for the Lord to grant consolation “to all those mourning the lamentable tragedy.” The Holy Father is working from the papal summer residence south of Rome.

In the message, sent to Archbishop Francisco Pérez González, Spain’s military prelate, the Holy Father requested that his condolences be expressed “to the relatives of the deceased military men as well as his sentiments of closeness.”

Spanish Defense Minister José Bono reported from the city of Herat in western Afghanistan today that the experts “do not see evidence” that the NATO helicopter in which the Spaniards died was the target of an attack. Authorities think that “strong and gusty winds” were to blame for the crash, he said.

Some media, however, today reported that a soldier in another Spanish helicopter reported an attack.

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