Pope Francis is praying for all those affected by a major earthquake in Papua New Guinea this week, offering his condolences in a telegram on Tuesday.

The telegram, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed the Holy Father's closeness in prayer to all those who are suffering in the southwestern Pacific nation.

"It was with great sadness that His Holiness Pope Francis learned of the tragic loss of life following the recent earthquake in Papua New Guinea," the telegram said. "Commending the souls of the deceased to the mercy of Almighty God, he sends his heartfelt condolences to their families, and he assures all those affected by this disaster of his closeness in prayer."

"Upon all those who mourn at this difficult time, and upon the emergency personnel involved in the important relief efforts, Pope Francis willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation."

Early Monday morning, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake tore through a largely rural region of Papua New Guinea, about 50 miles south of Porgera.

According to the Red Cross, at least 67 people were killed in the earthquake, and hundreds more are believed to have been injured.

Tens of thousands are now in need in food, water and other necessities, and aid agencies say landslides and damage to main roads are delaying their ability to reach remote villages that were among the hardest hit by the quake.

"It's very difficult to get accurate information because of damage to roads and the remoteness and ruggedness of the area, but it's thought that 143,000 people have been affected and 17,000 displaced," said Udaya Remi, the head of the Red Cross in Papua New Guinea, according to CNN.

Aftershocks as strong as 6.0-magnitude continue to shake the area, as local authorities have declared a state of emergency in the affected region.

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