Benedict XVI Sends Condolences to Poland

Entrusts President and Other Victims to Mercy of God

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing his sorrow at the plane crash in western Russia that took the lives of the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, his wife and more than 95 others who were on the flight with them.

Shortly after being informed of the incident, the Pontiff sent a message to the president of the Polish Parliament, Bronislaw Korowski, in which he also mentioned other victims of the disaster, including the former president of the Polish Republic in exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, Catholic bishop Tadeusz Ploski, Orthodox bishop Miron Chodakowski and evangelical military chaplain Adam Pilsch.

President Kaczynski and the large group of officials were killed when their plane crashed during an attempted landing at the Smolensk airport shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday.

The group -- which included relatives of Polish prisoners of war, intellectuals, political officials, priests and others massacred by the Soviets in the Katyn forest in 1940 -- were traveling with the presidential entourage to commemorate the 70th anniversary of that tragic event.

"I entrust all the victims of this dramatic incident [...] to the goodness of the merciful God. May he welcome them into his glory," the Pope said in his message.

The Holy Father offered to the families of the victims and all the people of Poland his "sincere condolences, assuring them of my spiritual nearness."

"In this difficult moment I implore for the Polish people a special blessing of almighty God," the message concluded.

Today after praying the midday Regina Caeli, Benedict XVI also mentioned the tragedy.

"In expressing my deepest condolences," he said, "from my heart I assure intercessory prayers for the victims and prayers of support for the beloved Polish nation."