VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent
messages of condolence to people in Iran and Iraq after a magnitude 7.3
earthquake killed more than 400 people, mostly in Iran.
The pope "assures all affected by this
tragedy of his prayerful solidarity," said the nearly identical messages,
released Nov. 13.
"In expressing his sorrow to all who
mourn the loss of their loved ones, he offers his prayers for the deceased and
commends them to the mercy of the almighty," said the telegrams, signed by
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
As he often does in emergencies, Pope Francis
also asked for the "blessings of consolation and strength" for first
responders and civil authorities.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the Nov. 12 quake
was centered 19 miles outside Halabja, Iraq. It was felt as far west as the
The hardest-hit area was Iran's western
Kermanshah province, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and
Iraq. The Associated Press reported residents in the rural area rely mainly on
farming to make a living.
Caritas MONA, the regional branch of the
church's charitable aid agency in the Middle East and North Africa, sent tweets
asking people to join Caritas Iran and Caritas Iraq in prayers for those
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our
brothers & sisters in Iraq and Iran following yesterday's devastating
earthquake that hit the border region," said another tweet Nov. 13.