Updated: April 17, 2013 08:17 PM GMT
During his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness “to the Iranian and the Pakistani people” after the powerful earthquake that struck the border area between the two countries.
The 7.8 earthquake on Tuesday afternoon is the second to strike the area in as many weeks.
Speaking in Italian in front of an estimated 50,000 people, the Argentine pontiff said he had learned “with deep sorrow” of the “the violent earthquake that struck so many people in Iran and Pakistan, causing death, suffering and destruction.”
Francis said he would pray for “all the victims and for all those who are suffering,” and expressed his “closeness to the people of Iran and Pakistan.”
The pontiff also appealed for solidarity for those affected by the earthquake.
Seismologists say the quake was the strongest to strike Iran in more than 50 years, though there are few details about the extent of damage yet.
Iran's Fars news agency said that the cities of Khash and Saravan, both less than 150 km from the epicenter, suffered no serious damage.
Across the border in Pakistan, authorities report that as many as 34 people were killed and roughly 80 others injured in the Mashkel district of Balochistan province.
At the end of his Wednesday’s audience, Francis also briefly met with Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Italy, Saleh Mohammad Al-Ghamdi.
He delivered a personal message to the pope on behalf of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
During his speech at the audience, Francis said that Jesus is our “advocate” with God, and that “He always intercedes in our favor.”
“It’s nice to hear this,” he added. “He defends us from the insidiousness of the Devil, He defends us from ourselves, from our sins. But, dear brothers and sisters, we have this advocate. We must not be afraid to turn to Him, to turn to him with our fears, to ask for his blessing and mercy.”
….As we enter the first months of 2022, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.