07/19/2006, 00.00
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"Saddened" pope prays for Java tsunami victims

Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to the Indonesian church and civil authorities. The death toll is still rising – at least 525 people have been killed.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "Deeply saddened" by the tsunami tragedy in Java, Benedict XVI "assures all those affected of his closeness in prayer". The pope expressed his condolences for victims of the tsunami that struck the Indonesian island on 17 July in a telegram sent to church and civil authorities, signed by the Secretary of State, Card. Angelo Sodano.  Meanwhile the death toll of the freak wave today exceeded 520.

In his message, the pope "commends the deceased to the loving mercy of the Almighty, and upon their grieving families he invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation". The telegram said the pontiff "prays for the rescue workers and all involved in providing assistance to displaced families, encouraging them to persevere in their efforts to bring relief and support".

On 17 July, the tsunami struck the tourist resorts of Cilacap and Pangandaran after an underwater quake off Jakarta measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale. The latest death toll – still provisional – is 525. Rescue workers are still at work amid the debris and it is feared that the number of deaths may rise further still.

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