A Colombian archbishop offered his solidarity and condolences to the families and friends of the 27 victims who died in a bus accident nine days before Christmas.

Noting the "tremendously tragic nature" of the accident, Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia of Cali, Columbia acknowledged that "with irreparable losses like these, we are left speechless."

According to Columbian radio network Caracol Radio, a bus traveling on the highway between the cities of Bogota and Cali crashed shortly before midnight on Dec. 16.

The vehicle, which had been operated by International Tourism Transportation, was carrying 40 passengers.

The driver said that the brakes were not working and that he was trying to slow the bus down by downshifting, reported survivors. Injured passengers were taken to hospitals in the nearby cities of Fusagasuga, Silvania and Soacha.  

In his statement, Archbishop Monsalve said the Church in Cali, together with the entire country, "is shocked by the traffic accident that has brought sorrow to so many families hoping to joyfully celebrate Christmas together."

He recognized the pain surrounding those who lost loved ones in the accident, especially in the days before Christmas.

"As archbishop of this Church, I extend an embrace of condolence and solidarity with all those affected, and I pray for the recovery of the injured and the eternal repose of the deceased," he said.  

He urged the faithful to offer support and care to those who are grieving, particularly in the parishes that will hold the wakes and funerals for those who have died.

"I invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Cali to observe a moment of silence and prayer for these intentions on the second and third day of the Christmas Novena," he added.