In un telegram signed by Card Tarcisio Bertone sent to Mgr Jean-Paul Gobel, apostolic nuncio to Iran, Benedict XVI offered “his heartfelt condolences to the civil authorities and the families of the victims.”
“Saddened by news of the great loss of life in the air tragedy,” the Pope said he would pray “for the eternal repose of the dead” and implore “the almighty and merciful God's gifts of comfort and strength on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.”
The accident occurred in Jannatabad, 16 minutes after the Tupolev Tu-154M operated by Iran's Caspian Airlines took off from Tehran on its way to Yerevan, Armenia
Only two of the three black boxes on board have been recovered, one badly damaged.
Iranian authorities are waiting to piece the facts together from flight data. But according to the deputy director of Armenia’s Civil Aviation Authority, the plane crashed when an engine caught fire and the pilot tried to find an emergency landing site.
A poor maintenance record is one of the factors cited as a possible cause for the accident.
Caspian Airways has a history of accidents and bad safety record.
Company officials blame instead US sanctions and trade boycott for preventing the airliner from purchasing spare parts.