Pope Francis says he is deeply saddened to learn of the huge loss of life caused by a powerful earthquake that has struck south-eastern Turkey and north-western Syria.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of the neighbouring countries early Monday morning toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 1,500 people.
Hundreds are still believed to be trapped under the rubble and the death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers search mounts of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.
In two separate telegrams signed on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro 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.
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.”