Pope Assures Joplin Tornado Victims of Prayers

Twister Killed 122; Deadliest in US Since 1950

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is assuring his prayers for the victims of the deadly tornado that ravaged Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, leaving some 122 dead and 750 wounded, making it the deadliest twister in the United States since 1950.

The telegram was addressed to Bishop James Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, and sent on behalf of the Holy Father by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state.

«The Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the catastrophic tornado which struck Joplin on Sunday and he asks you to convey to the entire community the assurance of his closeness in prayer,» the message stated. «Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks God the father of mercies to grant eternal rest to the departed, consolation to the grieving, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured.

«Upon the local, civil and religious leaders, and upon all involved in the relief efforts, His Holiness invokes the divine gifts of wisdom, fortitude and perseverance in every good.»

The National Weather Service categorized the Joplin tornado as an EF5, the highest rating available for tornadoes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the tornado was three-quarter-miles wide and was on the ground for six miles.

The storm damaged 8,000 buildings, and according to some reports, nearly 1,500 people are still missing.

On Tuesday, an outbreak of tornadoes over three states — Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas — left 13 dead, with the most violent tornadoes touching down in Oklahoma.

Including Tuesday’s twisters, the death toll for 2011 is 500, making it the deadliest year since 1953, when 519 people were killed. There have been more than 1,000 torndadoes so far this year, and four of those have been categorized as EF5 tornadoes.

The forecast for today includes more tornadic activity as the same storm system from Tuesday moves east to Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

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