“May the heavenly Father welcome into his kingdom the souls of the departed,” said Pope Francis after the Angelus prayer on June 3, 2023, referring to the train disaster that claimed almost 300 lives and injured more than 900 two days ago in the northeastern Indian state of Odisha.
“I assure you of my prayers for the many victims … I am close to the injured and to their loved ones,” Pope Francis said.
He had already expressed his closeness to the victims of the disaster the previous day in a telegram addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli. In that text, he prayed for the “divine gifts of courage and consolation” for the injured and those helping the victims.
The June 1, 2023, disaster was one of the most serious in recent world history. Railway accidents are frequent in India, and sometimes particularly deadly due to the overload of passengers.
In 1981, almost 1,000 people died when seven carriages of a train fell off a bridge in the eastern state of Bihar.
India, which is fast becoming the world’s leading demographic power, overtaking China, could receive a visit from Pope Francis in 2024.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the Vatican in 2021, extended an invitation to the Pontiff to visit the country-continent, where the Christian minority struggles to have its rights recognized in the face of the ruling Hindu nationalist party.
After the Angelus, the Pope also greeted a group of carabinieri, thanking them for their “daily closeness to the people,” and entrusting them and their families to the protection of the “Virgo Fidelis.”
As he does every Sunday, he also entrusted to the Virgin Mary “the populations afflicted by the scourge of war, especially the dear and martyred Ukraine.”