Pope Francis Prays for More than 60 People Killed in Iraq COVID Ward Fire

Iraqi medical officials told the Associated Press on July 13 that 64 people had so far died as a result of the fire at the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital, with more than 100 others injured.

Iraqis mourn relatives who died in a massive fire which engulfed a coronavirus isolation ward of Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, during their funeral in the central city of Najaf, on July 13, 2021.
Iraqis mourn relatives who died in a massive fire which engulfed a coronavirus isolation ward of Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, during their funeral in the central city of Najaf, on July 13, 2021. (photo: Ali Najafi / AFP/Getty)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican said on Tuesday that Pope Francis is praying for the more than 60 people killed in a fire in a coronavirus isolation ward at a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

The Vatican released the telegram on July 13 as the pope continues to recover after a colon surgery at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

“His Holiness Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by the tragic fire at the COVID isolation ward of the al-Hussein hospital in Nasiriyah,” said the telegram sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Deeply saddened, he prays especially for those who have died and for the comfort of their families and friends who mourn  their loss.” 

Pope Francis visited Nasiriyah briefly during his historic visit to Iraq. He traveled to the city’s airport on March 6, the day of his landmark meeting with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and his visit to Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. 

Iraqi medical officials told the Associated Press on July 13 that 64 people had so far died as a result of the fire at the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital, with more than 100 others injured. 

The AP reported that the ward, containing 70 beds, opened  three months ago.

The authorities have not announced the cause of the fire, which began on the night of July 12, but sources have told journalists that they believe it began with an oxygen cylinder explosion. 

In April, more than 80 people were killed in a fire at a hospital in the capital Baghdad, started by an exploding oxygen tank.

Pope Francis prayed for the victims after his Regina Coeli address on April 25.

“As of now, there are 82 people who have died,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them.”

Iraq, which has a population of 39 million people, has recorded more than 1.4 million cases of COVID-19 and over 17,000 deaths as of July 13, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The papal telegram, addressed to Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, the apostolic nuncio in Iraq, concluded: “Upon the patients, staff, and caregivers he invokes God’s blessings of consolation, strength, and peace.”

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Cœur) in Paris

Catholics in France, and Pro-Life News (Jan. 22)

The Church in France has long been called the “eldest daughter of the Church,” but today there are challenges and crises for French Catholics in all directions. But there are also signs of hope and promise. This week on Register Radio we talk to Register Senior Editor Jonathan Liedl about his recent trip to France. And then, as the nation marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the pro-life movement marches in Washington, DC, and around the country, we are joined by Lauretta Brown with an update on pro-life news and a look ahead to the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson.