By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis offered his condolences
and his prayers to the people of Sierra Leone after flooding and a major
mudslide Aug. 14 led to the deaths of hundreds of people and displaced
“Deeply saddened by the devastating consequences of the
mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, His Holiness Pope Francis assures those
who have lost loved ones of his closeness at this difficult time,” said a
message sent to Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of Freetown by Cardinal Pietro Parolin,
Vatican secretary of state.
Pope Francis “prays for all who have died, and upon
their grieving families and friends he invokes the divine blessings of strength
and consolation,” said the message, which was released by the Vatican Aug.
16. The pope also “expresses his prayerful solidarity with the rescue
workers and all involved in providing the much needed relief and support to the
victims of this disaster.”
Visiting the hard-hit town of Regent, about 15 miles east of
Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma described the devastation as
“overwhelming” and pleaded for international assistance.
Soon after the disaster struck, Catholic Relief Services,
the overseas aid agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, published
an appeal to donors.
“More than 300 people were killed and property was
destroyed” in the mudslide, CRS said. At least 100 homes were covered and
more than 600 people were still missing early Aug. 16.
“The death toll is expected to rise,” the CRS
appeal said. “Families affected by the Sierra Leone landslide need food,
shelter, water and clothing,” which CRS and its partner Caritas will
strive to provide.
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