Pope Francis prays for victims of deadly earthquake in Albania

Pope Francis at the general audience Jan 31 2018 Credit Daniel Ibez CNA Pope Francis at the general audience Jan. 31, 2018. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis expressed his condolences Wednesday for those who have been affected by or who have died in a devastating earthquake which struck Albania Nov. 26.

At least 25 people have been confirmed dead and more than 600 injured, according to authorities. Searches are continuing for those who are missing in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The pope sent "heartfelt condolences" to Albanian President Ilir Meta Nov. 27, in a telegram signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

"Commending the souls of the deceased to God's mercy, he assures the injured and all those affected by this disaster of his closeness in prayer," it stated.

"Upon the emergency personnel in their relief efforts, His Holiness invokes blessings of strength, and he entrusts the people of Albania to the loving providence of the Almighty."

The epicenter of the 6.4 magnitude quake struck less than 20 miles from the Balkan country's capital city of Tirana, which has a population of 900,000.

The most damage was sustained by the city of Durres, which sits on the Adriatic coast, and by the inland town of Thumane.

It was the most powerful quake in Albania since an earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit the country in 1979, killing 136 people and injuring at least 1,000.

The poorest country in Europe, Albania has requested aid from neighboring countries in the search to find missing people and clean up ruined buildings.

Neighboring Greece has offered support and other countries, including France, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Serbia, and the United States have all sent over rescue teams and disaster experts, according to the AP.

Residents of Durres were sleeping in tents and cars the night after the earthquake as significant aftershocks continued.

Southern Bosnia experienced a smaller earthquake after that in Albania. There was also a small quake which hit off the coast of the island of Crete Wednesday.

Pope Francis made a one-day trip to Albania in September 2014, where he celebrated Mass in Mother Teresa Square in Tirana and had an emotional meeting with one of the last survivors of Communist persecution in the country.

After hearing the testimony of Fr. Ernest Troshani Simoni, now 91, the two embraced and Pope Francis wiped tears from his eyes.

In November 2016, Pope Francis made Simoni a cardinal.

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