March 23 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

3-SWISS-CRASH-SITE

Prayers for Swiss bus crash victims

Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Keith O’Brien offer condolences to those affected by tragedy

Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Keith O’Brien have sent prayers and condolences for the victims of a deadly bus accident in Switzerland that killed 28 people, including 22 schoolchildren.

“His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI associates himself in prayer with the suffering of the mourning families, entrusting the victims to the mercy of God and asking Him to welcome them into His light,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf.

The bus, transporting 52 people, mostly children, crashed on the way back from a skiing holiday.  The schoolchildren, aged around 12, were from St Lambertus Catholic school in Heverlee, a suburb of Leuven in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region.

Condolences

Pope Benedict also expressed his ‘profound sympathy’ for those injured—in what has been deemed as one of Switzerland’s worst coach crashes—and their families as well as his ‘closeness’ to rescue workers, praying that God will ‘give them help and consolation in their moment of trial.’

Cardinal Keith O’Brien sent a similar message from Scotland to Archbishop André-Mutien Léonard of Aartsbisdom, in Belgium.

“My own personal sympathy and that of the bishops, priests, religious and people of Scotland is with you all, following on the tragic accident recently in Switzerland involving so many children and adults from your country,” Cardinal O’Brien wrote. “That the children were returning from a happy holiday and joyfully looking forward to their reunion with their parents, makes the accident all the more poignant.”

Accident

The tourist bus hit a wall inside a tunnel after departing for home from a Swiss Alps ski vacation. In addition to the 22 children who died, 24 were hurt and some suffered serious injuries.

Belgium held a day of national mourning on Friday for the 28 people who died in the crash as Swiss authorities investigated whether the design of the tunnel contributed to the disaster.

Among the dead was the English 11-year-old Sebastian Bowles, a former pupil of Our Lady Muswell Hill Catholic Primary in London.

The boy moved with his family to Belgium from London two years ago. His mother, Ann, is Belgian and his father Edward, is believed to work at Standard Chartered Bank.

Tributes and funerals

Bishop Norbert Brunner of Sion, Switzerland, assured victims and their families of the prayers of many from across the world.

“We ask the Lord to take care of the families and give them hope,” he said. “We thank all the helpers and rescuers and the people who support the families in grief.”

The bishop celebrated a memorial Mass for the dead on March 15 at the parish of Sainte-Croix in Sierre, the city where the accident occurred.

It was announced at the weekend that the Belgian and Dutch royal families would attend the funerals this week of those killed in the accident.

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