VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2002 ( John Paul II expressed his sympathy and offered his prayers for the victims of the Monday air accident over southern Germany.

The Pope expressed his sympathy to the families of the deceased in a telegram sent on his behalf by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, to Archbishop Giorgio Zur, apostolic nuncio and representative of the Vatican in the Russian Federation.

Entrusting the victims to the mercy of God, the Holy Father "invokes divine consolation for those who mourn the tragic loss and assures everyone of his spiritual closeness in prayer," the telegram reads.

The accident occurred when the chartered Russian airliner and a cargo plane collided at 36,000 feet over Lake Constance, killing 71, including 52 children who were going on holiday to Spain.


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