Pope Francis Prays for Strength for Victims, Relief Workers After Deadly US Tornadoes

The Dec. 13 message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was sent to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis, shown praying in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 21, sent a telegram offering condolences and expressing spiritual support on Dec. 13.
Pope Francis, shown praying in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 21, sent a telegram offering condolences and expressing spiritual support on Dec. 13. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

Pope Francis prayed on Monday that God would give gifts of strength and perseverance to rescue workers and all those affected by tornadoes that struck the South and Midwest of the United States Dec. 10-11.

“The Holy Father was saddened to learn of the devastating impact of the tornadoes that struck the central and southern United States in these days,” said a Dec. 13 telegram to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

The message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Pope Francis “offers heartfelt prayers that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy.”

A series of tornadoes and storms in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee caused power outages, destroyed homes and businesses, and killed dozens of people. 

“With gratitude for the tireless efforts of the rescue workers and all engaged in caring for the injured, the grieving families and those left homeless, Pope Francis invokes upon all engaged in the massive work of relief and rebuilding the Lord’s gifts of strength and generous perseverance in the service of their brothers and sisters,” the Pope’s message to U.S. bishops said.

Some states are still trying to get an accurate count of the number of deaths as relief workers continue to search the wreckage for missing people during the emergency response. 

The Kentucky death toll, the state hardest hit, is above 70.

Nearly 90,000 homes and businesses in parts of Kentucky and Tennessee are without power days after the disaster. 

Pope Francis also said he was praying for victims during his Angelus address on Sunday.

“I also pray for the victims of the tornado that hit Kentucky and other areas of the United States of America,” he said Dec. 12.

The Pope spoke about the tragedy after two U.S. archbishops offered their condolences to victims.

Archbishop Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged Catholics to help those affected by supporting the work of Catholic Charities USA.

“It is heartbreaking to see the destruction and devastation brought by the tornadoes that tore through the South and Midwest overnight,” the archbishops of Los Angeles and Oklahoma City said in a Dec. 11 statement.

“During this Advent season, where we await in joyful anticipation for the birth of Our Lord, we pray for those who have been injured, for those who have lost their lives, and for their grieving families and communities.”

“May those who have been impacted by these storms find peace, comfort and hope in our faith and in God’s endless love.”

A bishop in Kentucky asked for prayers on Dec. 11.

“Let us ... unite in prayer as a Catholic community for all of the suffering that was caused by this disaster,” said Bishop William Medley of the Diocese of Owensboro.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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