Pope Mourns 168 Plane Crash Victims

VATICAN CITY, JULY 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing sadness about a plane crash in Iran that killed all 168 people on board.

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The Pope affirmed this in a telegram sent through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, after receiving the news of Wednesday’s «great loss of life in the air tragedy over Jannat Abad near Qazvin.»

The aircraft, a Russian model Tupolev Tu-154, was traveling from Tehran, Iran, to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, when it caught fire 16 minutes after take-off.

The Caspian Airlines flight dived into a field and exploded, sending wreckage over a 200-yard area.

The Holy Father offered «heartfelt condolences to the civil authorities and the families of the victims.»

The English-language telegram, sent to the apostolic nuncio of Iran, Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, stated that the Pontiff «prays for the eternal repose of the dead and implores the almighty and merciful God’s gifts of comfort and strength on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.»

The majority of the passengers were Iranian, many from the ethnic Armenian community.

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