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Pope ‘deeply saddened’ by quake in Turkey, Syria

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The Vatican said Monday that Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” by a major earthquake in Turkey and Syria that has killed more than 1,600 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the huge loss of life caused by the earthquake… he sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected,” wrote the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in a statement.

The 7.8-magnitude night-time tremor wiped out entire sections of major Turkish cities in a region filled with millions of people who have fled the civil war in Syria and other conflicts.

The initial quake was followed by more than 50 aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that jolted the region in the middle of search-and-rescue work on Monday afternoon.

In two separate telegrams signed on his behalf by Parolin, the pope offered words of condolence and asked the apostolic nuncios, Marek Solczynski of Turkey, and Mario Zenari of Syria, to send his assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected, according to the Vatican News.

The pope entrusted “those who died to the loving mercy of the Almighty” and sent his “heartfelt condolences to those who mourn their loss.”

Likewise, he said he “prays that the emergency personnel will be sustained in their care of the injured and in the ongoing relief efforts by the divine gifts of fortitude and perseverance.”

The pope also expressed a “renewed sign of his spiritual solidarity” for the “long-suffering Syrian people.”

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