As he hosted his weekly Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made his fourth appeal for prayer for the victims of the tornado that killed 24 people in Oklahoma.
Before he greeted all of the English-speaking people at the May 22 general audience, Pope Francis invited everyone present to pray for those who were killed or injured by the May 20 tornado that ravaged the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
The death toll was originally reported as 91 people, including 20 children, but subsequent counts showed that some casualties were counted twice in the chaos. According to the state’s chief medical officer Doctor Eric Pfeifer, the correct number of dead stands at 24, with nine of those being children.
Besides his request at the general audience, the Pope also sent a May 21 message to Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, in which he asked the archbishop to “convey to the entire community the assurance of his solidarity and closeness in prayer.”
“Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks Almighty God to grant eternal rest to the departed, comfort to the afflicted, and strength and hope to the homeless and injured,” reads the message sent by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In his first two requests for prayer – during the prayer intentions for his daily Mass and then via Twitter – Pope Francis singled out for particular prayer the tragic death of the children who were killed by the storm.
He repeated that plea in his message to the Oklahoma City archbishop, saying, “in particular way he commends to the Father of Mercies the many young children among the victims and their grieving families.”
“Upon the local civil and religious leaders, and upon all involved in the relief efforts His Holiness invokes the Risen Lord's gifts of consolation, strength and perseverance in every good,” his telegram concluded.