PARIS, JUNE 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A message from Benedict XVI was read at the opening of an interreligious gathering in Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral, expressing sorrow for the victims of Monday’s Air France plane accident.
The Pope affirmed his prayer that God will “give his support and consolation” to all those people affected by the tragedy that claimed 228 lives when a flight en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean.
Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris and president of the French bishops’ conference, transmitted the condolences of the Pontiff at Wednesday’s gathering.
The Holy Father entrusted the deceased to God’s mercy, and expressed the hope that their families will “find the help that they need around them in these hours of anguish.”
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, was present at the gathering along with other government representatives, Christians, Jews, Muslims, families and friends of the victims and Air France workers.
To symbolize the lives lost in the tragedy, 228 candles were placed on the altar.
Rabbi Haim Korsia, chaplain of the air personnel, invoked the “fraternity that unites us, believers and non-believers.”
Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of Muslim Faith, directed some words of support and compassion to the families and friends of the victims, and he sang the first sura of the Koran.
Claude Bay, president of the Protestant Federation of France also expressed his sympathy, followed by the Metropolitan Emmanuel on behalf of the French Assembly of Orthodox bishops.
Pilots and crew members, dressed in uniform, recited verses from the Book of Lamentations and the Gospel of Luke, in French, Portuguese and English.
The archbishop of Paris concluded the ceremony with a message of encouragement and support for the families.