The Pope has sent his condolences to the people of Turkey and Syria following the earthquakes which have left thousands of people dead.
In two separate telegrams sent to the apostolic nuncios of Turkey and Syria, Francis said he was deeply saddened to learn of the huge loss of life.
More than five thousand people are now known to have died in the earthquakes which struck on Monday morning in southern Turkey and northern Syria. The World Health Organisation says fatalities could reach 20,000 in the coming days. Hundreds of people remain trapped underneath rubble after buildings crumbled as a result of the earthquakes.
The first quake, which measured 7 point 8, struck near Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday while many people were sleeping. It was followed by a second quake during the morning which had a magnitude of 7 point 5.
Vatican News says the telegrams were signed on the Pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The Pope said he entrusted “those who died to the loving mercy of the Almighty” and sent his “heartfelt condolences to those who mourn their loss.”
The pontiff also said he was praying that “the emergency personnel will be sustained in their care of the injured and in the ongoing relief efforts by the divine gifts of fortitude and perseverance.”
The Pope also expressed a “renewed sign of his spiritual solidarity” for the “long-suffering Syrian people.”
The earthquake has added to the hardship for people in north-west Syria which has already been decimated by years of war. It’s estimated more than 4 million people in the region are displaced and living in camps dependent on aid for their survival.