Pope Sends Message of Condolence Following Plane Crash in Northern Mali

Assures Victims’ Relatives of His «Profound Sympathy,» Prays for God’s Consolation

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The Holy Father has sent his condolences to the families of victims killed in a deadly plane crash in the African country of Mali yesterday.

The telegram was sent Friday on behalf of the Holy Father by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Archbishop of Alger, Ghaleb Bader.

According to airline officials, the Air Algérie jetliner with 118 people on board traveling from Burkina Faso to Algeria crashed in Northern Mali. Though wreckage was found in Mali’s Gossi region, officials decline to say if there were survivors.

In the message to relatives of those killed, the Pope said he “joins in prayer with the suffering of those who have lost loved ones.”

Conveying his condolences, the Holy Father assured them of his “profound sympathy,” and prayed that “the Lord may receive the souls of the departed and bring consolation and hope to all those affected by the disaster.»

According to the Wall Street Journal, Air Algérie Flight 5017 lost contact at 1:55 a.m. local time, 50 minutes after departing from Ouagadougou. Roughly 12 hours later, officials in Burkina Faso, struggling to figure out what happened, got a phone call from a villager near the town of Gossi in northern Mali. The villager stated he had walked up to the crash site, said an official in the National Civil Aviation Agency, who declined to say if there were any survivors.

Some speculate that mass sand and lightning storms led to the catastrophe.

Fifty-one passengers on board were French nationals, many of them due to catch connecting flights in Algiers to return home to France.

French President Francois Hollande said, «This is a moment of gravity and of pain.» 

The plane was also carrying 24 passengers from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians and four Germans. The passenger list also included people from Luxembourg, Mali, Belgium, Niger, Cameroon, Egypt, Ukraine, Romania and Switzerland. The nationality of three passengers was still being verified. All six crew members aboard the plane are from Spain. The plane was operated by Swiftair SA, a Spanish charter company. (D.C.L.)

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