Pope offers concern for Katrina’s victims, prayers for relief workers

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI expressed his spiritual closeness and concern for all those affected by Hurricane Katrina in the United States, and he offered special prayers for those engaged in relief efforts.

He assured all those affected by what was considered the most destructive storm to hit the country in decades of "his closeness in prayer" and "divine blessings of strength and consolation."

In a telegram sent by the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the pope said he was "deeply saddened by the tragic consequences of the recent hurricane."

The Vatican released a copy of the telegram Aug. 31.

"The Holy Father commends the deceased to the loving mercy of almighty God, and upon their grieving families he invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation," the telegram said.

Pope Benedict also offered special prayers for rescue workers "and all those involved in providing assistance to the victims of the disaster."

He "encouraged them to persevere in their efforts to bring relief and support," said the text.

While hundreds were feared dead, millions of people were in need of assistance -- including some who remained stranded on rooftops -- as widespread flooding and storms rendered homes inhabitable, downed power lines and blocked major roads. Food and clean water were running low in the hardest hit areas of New Orleans, where 80 percent of the city remained under water, and in Mississippi and Alabama.

Here is the text of the telegram:

Deeply saddened by the tragic consequences of the recent hurricane in the United States of America, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI assures all those affected of his closeness in prayer. The Holy Father commends the deceased to the loving mercy of almighty God, and upon their grieving families he invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation. His Holiness likewise prays for the rescue workers and all involved in providing assistance to the victims of this disaster, encouraging them to persevere in their efforts to bring relief and support.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano

Secretary of State

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