Pope Francis sends blessing in wake of Creeslough tragedy

Pope Francis sends blessing in wake of Creeslough tragedy

POPE FRANCIS has sent a blessing to the people of Ireland following the tragedy in Cresslough, Co. Donegal.

Ten people, including three children, died in the explosion at an Applegreen service station on Friday.

An Garda Siochána has named the victims, while confirming that eight others remain injured in hospital, one of whom is in a critical condition.

In a message shared by St Michael's Church in Creeslough, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said the Pontiff's thoughts were with the victims and all those affected.

"His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction caused by the explosion in Creeslough and he expresses his spiritual closeness to all those suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy," read the letter to Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian.

"While entrusting the deceased to the merciful love of almighty God, His Holiness implores the divine blessings of consolation and healing upon the injured, the displaced and the families coping with pain of loss.

"As a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord, the Holy Father sends his blessing to all the people of Ireland."

'Darkest day'

In his own statement, Bishop McGuckian spoke of his 'utter disbelief' upon hearing the news of the tragedy, but praised the community for their bravery in coming to the aid of those affected.

"Yesterday was the darkest day in Donegal," he said in a statement issued on Saturday.

"It was with utter disbelief that I heard the news of the devastating explosion at a filling station in Creeslough.

"I am deeply saddened at the loss of life and at the extent of injuries caused.

Clockwise, from top left: Leona Harper, 14; Jessica Gallagher, 24; Catherine O'Donnell, 39, and her son, James Monaghan, 13; James O'Flaherty, 48; Martin McGill, 49; Robert Garwe, 50 and his daughter. Shauna Flanagan Garwe, 5; Hugh Kelly, 59; and Martina Martin, 40 (Images: An Garda Siochána)

"In the wake of this heart-breaking human tragedy, I am asking all parishes in the Diocese of Raphoe to come together to pray at Mass this weekend, so that people can offer comfort and support to each other and to all who are suffering.

"God always walks with us, in light and in dark, so let us embrace the power of prayer at this time of need and He will be there for us."

He added: "I have witnessed at first hand the immediate reaction of the local community to the tragedy who, in their bravery, took risks at the site to help others even to the detriment of their own safety.

"I wish to commend the first responders, and the emergency services of Donegal and Derry, for their high level of professional cooperation and rapid response."