.- Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that “all people who believe in the one God will unite to deplore all forms of violence and cooperate to restore peace in the troubled land of Iraq,” as he presented his condolences following the deaths of hundreds of people during a stampede on a Baghdad bridge.
Benedict's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, sent a telegram to the Vatican's envoy in Baghdad urging him to pass on the pope's "sincere condolence" to civil and religious authorities as well as to the families.
At last count, 953 people were killed in Baghdad when a crowd of Iraq Shiite pilgrims, in a religious procession to a nearby mosque for a religious ceremony, stampeded off a bridge, as the rumor spread through the crowd of a possible terrorist attack.
Most of the dead are women and children. They either died in the crush or drowned in the Tigris River.
In the telegram, the Pope asked Archbishop Fernando Filoni, apostolic nuncio in Iraq, to express his “sincere sorrow” to government and religious authorities, the victims’ families and the entire population.
The Pope entrusted the victims to the divine mercy of God. He assured the people of his prayers so that the country many “finally be restored in a climate of reconciliation and mutual trust.”