Pope Francis Prays for Alabama Tornado Victims as Local Faithful Assist Those in Need
Devastating storms over the weekend killed 23 people and left dozens of survivors without homes.
Pope Francis sent his prayers and condolences to Alabama Wednesday after devastating tornadoes over the weekend killed 23 people and left dozens of survivors without homes.
“Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life and the injuries caused by the tornado which struck Alabama in recent days, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all affected by this natural disaster,” a telegram sent on behalf of the Pope stated March 6.
Pope Francis prays for “healing and consolation” for the injured and those who grieve and that “Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead, especially the children,” the cable continued.
Victims of the storm — which has been declared the deadliest tornado in the U.S. since 2013 — include four children, ages 6-10.
Between three and five tornadoes with winds measuring as high as 170 mph touched down in eastern Alabama March 3 and traveled 70 miles, causing further destruction in Georgia.
“Upon all who are suffering the effects of this calamity, the Holy Father invokes the Lord’s blessings of peace and strength,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in the telegram on behalf of Pope Francis.
The faithful in Alabama are ministering to those affected.
“Priests were present at the hospital yesterday to minister to the injured and their families,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said in a March 4 statement to CNA.
“I am asking for prayers for all who lost their lives in the catastrophic tornadoes, which occurred yesterday in the Archdiocese of Mobile, and for those who have suffered from the devastating damage to homes and businesses,” he said.
Alabama’s Lee County suffered all the reported fatalities, The New York Times said.
“I would describe the damage that we have seen in the area as catastrophic,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said at a Monday news conference. “Complete residences are gone.”
At its worst, the main storm produced a tornado measuring as high as an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Its path was at least 24 miles long.
“Almost a mile wide,” meteorologist Chris Darden estimated, according to the website AL.com, “a monster tornado as it moved across the area.”
Catholic Social Services has been in contact with local pastors and is “ready to help with the recovery efforts,” said Archbishop Rodi.
The Alabama tornadoes struck just miles from the town of Auburn. Local Catholics there reacted.
“Our continued thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the disastrous storms that took place yesterday,” St. Michael parish in Auburn said on its Facebook page March 4.
The parish is circulating information about relief services and donations. It is collecting gift cards to give to agencies to distribute to families in need.
A tornado that touched down near Cairo, Georgia, damaged dozens of homes and businesses.
“We have a lot of trees down, debris and power lines,” Cairo Mayor Booker Gainor told The Tallahassee Democrat. “We have trees completely through houses. You would think a hurricane came after this, the way it looks.”
In 2011, storms spawned over 60 tornadoes that killed more than 230 people in Alabama. The disasters prompted storm shelter upgrades and increased attention to the threat of bad weather, The New York Times reported.