.- Church leaders around the world grieved over the deaths of 355 inmates in a Honduras prison fire and urged officials to ensure that a tragedy of this kind never happens again.
Clergy members voiced solidarity with the families of the victims and called the incident “a very sad tragedy that has disturbed all our leaders and the entire country,” said Msgr. Carlo Magno Nunez, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa.
“The Church in Honduras and especially in Comayagua, is close to the families of the deceased to give them whatever assistance possible,” he told CNA on Feb. 16. “ I ask all to pray for the families of the victims, who are being helped by the Church.”
Pope Benedict also issued a statement on Feb. 17 saying he was “deeply saddened” by the event and offered his prayers and blessings to the victims and their families.
The news “raises fervent prayers to the Almighty for the eternal repose of the dead,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told the country on behalf of the Pope.
Local Bishop Roberto Camilleri of Comayagu called the fire another major “disaster to take place in the Honduran prison system” in recent times despite Comayagua being considered the most secure facility in the nation.
“We consider the inhuman conditions of overcrowding and insecurity experienced by the prison population in our country to be regrettable, especially at the Comayagua Prison Center, which was built to hold 250 inmates but whose prison population had swelled to 852,” the bishop said on Feb. 16.
He urged the “institutions of Honduran society to ask our leaders to guarantee the integrity and dignity of prisoners, so that this unfortunate tragedy affecting so many Honduran families will never happen again.”
“We ask the Christian community to raise its prayers to the God of life, that He welcome into His glory our deceased brethren, and to their families we say: you are not alone, God is with you during these difficult moments,” the bishop said.
Archbishop Luigi Vivanco, the Apostolic Nuncio to Honduras, celebrated a Mass on Wednesday for the victims of the fire at the Parish of St. John Bosco.
On Thursday coroners began working on identifying the remains of the 355 inmates who died trapped inside the facility.
Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire, which is being considered the most devastating prison tragedy within the last ten years.