.- Pope Francis has sent his “deepest condolences” and is offering “fervent prayers” as family and friends gathered today to mourn the 38 people who died in a tragic bus accident last Sunday.
“Profoundly saddened by the news of the tragic accident, the Pope raises fervent prayers for the souls of the deceased and conveys his deepest condolences to their families,” reads a July 29 telegram sent by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on the Pope’s behalf.
Pope Francis is also praying for the “rapid recovery of the injured, and imparts the comfort of an apostolic blessing as a sign of consolation for those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.”
The families of the 38 victims gathered on July 30 at the Alfonso Trincone sports hall in the Monterusciello neighborhood for a group funeral, presided over by Bishop Gennaro Pascarella of Pozzuoli.
The funeral was attended by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.
The approximately 4,000 people at the funeral heard Bishop Pascarella urged the authorities to find out what caused the accident and prevent it from ever happening again. In a July 29 statement, the Pozzuoli bishop reflected on the grief being experienced by the families.
“In the face of tragedies like the one involving so many of our fellow citizens and faithful,” he said, “every word is inadequate to express the pain, the anxiety, the anguish of people who suddenly found themselves without a father or mother, without a husband or wife, without a brother or a sister, without a son or daughter.”
“This is the time for solidarity, closeness, made of concrete actions. It is a drama that involves the whole civil and religious community,” the bishop added. As part of his efforts to comfort those struck by the tragedy, Bishop Pascarella visited Monteforte Irpino, the town closest to the accident, and also announced that the diocese’s Caritas group will be raising funds for the victims.
The accident occurred on Sunday evening when a bus full of pilgrims returning from the St. Padre Pio shrine in Pietrelcina, Italy failed to brake on a curve, struck several vehicles and then crashed through a concrete guardrail, plummeting almost 100 feet into a ravine below.
Some witnesses told the Italian media that the bus already had signs of crash damage up to a kilometer before the accident site.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into possible manslaughter, but no charges have been made and the cause of the accident is still undetermined.
The bus crash at Monteforte Irpino is the second transportation crash within a week in Western Europe, following the June 24 derailment of a passenger train outside of Santiago de Compestela, Spain that has so far claimed the lives of 79 people.