Pope offers condolences after deadly bus accident in Argentina

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Pope Francis prays with journalists on the papal flight en route to South Korea, August 14, 2014. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

A “deeply grieved” Pope Francis offered his prayers and condolences after a bus accident that killed 43 federal policemen in his home country of Argentina.

The Pope “offers his fervent prayers to the Lord for the eternal rest of the deceased,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in a Dec. 14 telegram to Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo, the president of Argentina’s bishops’ conference.

“I also ask your excellency to convey my heartfelt condolences to the family members of those who have lost their lives as well as my closeness to those injured and affected by this tragic event,” the cardinal said.

“In this time of grieving, Pope Francis imparts his apostolic blessing as a sign of hope in the Risen Lord,” the message concluded.

Hundreds of people paid their respects Dec. 15 at the Forum convention center in Santiago del Estero, Argentina. The policemen from the Argentine Federal Police died when their bus plunged from a bridge near the city of Rosario de la Frontera in Salta Province, in the country’s northwest.

The bus was carrying 51 policemen travelling from Santiago del Estero to Jujay. As the bus crossed the bridge over Balboa Creek, the driver lost control of the vehicle for undetermined reasons.

On Dec. 14, a prayer service for the deceased was held. A special arrangement of candles and flowers was set up at the forum around each coffin in honor of the fallen policemen. Bishop Vicente Bokalic of Santiago del Estero presided at the funeral Mass.

Concelebrating the Eucharist were Father Ruben Bonacina, head chaplain of the Argentine Federal Police and Father Ramon Acuna, chaplain of the Fifth Mobile Detachment, the division to which several of the deceased policemen belonged.

At the end of the Mass, Father Bonacina read messages of condolence from Pope Francis and the Argentine bishops’ conference. Monsignor Pedro Candia, the diocesan administrator of the military diocese, also sent condolences to the national director of the Argentine Federal Police, General Commander Omar Kannemann.

The Argentine bishops said in a statement: “We promise our prayers that the Lord may receive these sons of his and grant Christian consolation to their family members, friends and all members of the force. We also commend the injured to God and pray for their swift recovery.”

President Mauricio Macri of Argentina declared a national 24-hour period of mourning when he learned of the tragic accident.

Meanwhile, the governor of Santiago del Estero Province, Claudia Ledesma Abdala de Zamora, attended the wake for the policemen and declared two days of mourning in the province.

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