5/21/2013 9:08:00 AM Pope prays for tornado victims
Catholic News Service photos
Oklahoma National Guard soldiers and rescue workers dig through the rubble of Plaza Tower Elementary school May 21 after a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., the previous day.
Massive tornado approaches the town of Moore, Okla., May 20.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — As the death toll rose from the massive tornado that struck near Oklahoma City May 20, Pope Francis offered a special prayer for the victims during his early morning Mass May 21 and later offered his condolences through his Twitter account.
"Let us pray for the victims ... and the missing, especially the children, struck by the violent tornado that hit Oklahoma City yesterday. Hear us, O Lord," the pope said during the prayers of the faithful.
The tornado touched down at about 3 p.m. local time in Oklahoma and reportedly stayed on the ground for more than 40 minutes, leaving a 20-mile path of death and destruction. Dozens of people were reported killed, and the death toll was expected to rise. Two elementary schools were struck by the tornado.
A few hours after the Mass, Pope Francis also used his @Pontifex Twitter account to express his concern for the Oklahoma victims and survivors.
"I am close to the families of all who died in the Oklahoma tornado, especially those who lost young children. Join me in praying for them," he told the 2.5 million people who follow his English-language Twitter account and the 2.4 million who follow his Spanish-language account.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, pledged prayers and support for the people of the Archdiocese Oklahoma City. He promised the support of the U.S. bishops and Catholics in the United States in a letter to Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City.
"The deaths of so many, especially beloved children in their school, call us to join you and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in prayer for the consolation of all who feel this terrible loss," Cardinal Dolan wrote. "The experience of loss of family members, homes, neighborhoods, and even the local hospital, shows a devastation that impels us to stand with you and all the good people of Moore both in prayer for comfort and in efforts for disaster relief to ease the suffering of those whose lives have been affected by this dreadful disaster."