(CNS photo/Mathieu Belanger, Reuters)
By Catholic News Service
OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered prayers for the people touched by the tragic July 6 train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, said the Vatican secretary of state.
In a message released July 8 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the pope offered words of condolence to the small community located near Quebec's border with Maine.
"Upon learning of the tragic train derailment at Lac-Megantic, with its many victims of whom a large number is still unaccounted for, His Holiness Pope Francis unites himself through prayer in the anguish of the grieving families, and he entrusts the victims to the mercy of God, asking him to welcome them into His light," the cardinal's message said.
"He expresses his deep sympathy to the injured persons and their families, to the emergency workers and to all the people around them, asking the Lord to support and comfort them in their hardship," the message continued.
"As a token of consolation, the Holy Father sends a special apostolic blessing to all persons touched by this tragedy," the message concluded.
At St. Agnes Parish, within feet of the derailment and blast site, Father Steve Lemay was awakened by the explosions. He has spent much of his time since the disaster ministering to parishioners, many of whom were evacuated as multiple blasts shook the town.
(CNS photo/Transporation Safety Board of Canada via Reuters)
The century-old church sustained minimal damage from the accident, which occurred after a runaway freight train headed to a New Brunswick oil refinery derailed and exploded.
He said young people were hit particularly hard, reported the Globe and Mail in Toronto. He lauded the community's perseverance, saying it "reassures us of human nature." He also said residents are asking questions about the train's safety.
Father Lemay has provided updates on his Facebook page and thanked followers for their prayers.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Pierre-Andre Fournier of Rimouski, Quebec, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, offered condolences and words of solidarity to Sherbrooke Archbishop Luc Cyr in a July 8 letter.
Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal called for a day of prayer July 14 for victims of the tragedy. He also called for a special collection to be taken in parishes.
The archbishop planned to celebrate a Mass for accident victims and the people of Lac-Megantic at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral July 14.
The death toll continued to rise July 10 in the once-picturesque town of 6,000 in the southeast corner of Quebec in the Sherbrooke Archdiocese, about 130 miles east of Montreal. Fifteen deaths were confirmed and about 40 people remained missing, authorities said.
The cause of the disaster remains under investigation.