Pope Benedict XVI heard “with sorrow” the news of a deadly head-on train collision in Poland and has expressed his condolences to the victims in a telegram to the president of the Polish bishops’ conference.
“The Holy Father assures you of his prayers for the victims of this tragic incident, and joins in the mourning of their families and of all of Poland,” said the telegram Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent on the Pope’s behalf to Archbishop Józef Michalik of Przemysl.
The Pope’s telegram invoked St. Paul’s words in 1 Thess. 4:14: “We believe… that as Jesus died and rose again, so too God will raise those who have died through Jesus together with him.”
Sixteen died and more than 50 were injured in the train collision in southern Poland just north of Krakow. The front cars of the trains were mangled in the crash, which happened on the night of March 3.
Emergency workers are continuing to search the wreckage to ensure that no bodies were missed, the Associated Press reports. Two traffic controllers in charge of the route at the time of the crash have been detained for questioning, though they have not been charged with any crime.
Archbishop Michalik and other leaders of the country’s bishops issued their own statement offering prayers for the victims and their families.
Pope Benedict prayed for the gift of divine mercy and eternal life for the dead. He further prayed for a “speedy and complete recovery” for all the injured.
He also prayed for courage and peace for those who are grieving, said Cardinal Bertone, who offered his own condolences.
The crash is Poland’s deadliest train accident in over 20 years. Poland has declared two days of national mourning for the victims.
The national railway workers’ chaplain will celebrate a March 7 Mass at Warsaw’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Zoliborz for the victims.