The caskets containing the bodies of the wife and children of Emanuel Bergoglio, a nephew of Pope Francis, are loaded on a plane Aug. 19 in Cordoba, Argentina, to be flown to Buenos Aires. The pope asked people to join him in prayer after he learned that two of his little great-nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition. CNS photo/Irma Montiel, EPA

Pope Francis thanks people for prayers after deadly crash kills relatives

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • August 20, 2014

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew's wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience Aug. 20 for their prayers.

After each of the priests who translate the Pope's words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: "The Pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was two years old and the other several months."

The Pope said that after the crash in the early morning hours Aug. 19, his 35-year-old nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, "is in critical condition right now. I thank you, I thank you very much, for your condolences and prayers."

Memories, from the important to the light-hearted, took centre stage at the Pope's audience with about 7,000 people gathered in the Vatican audience hall.

Seated on the stage, among the visiting bishops, was a delegation representing the players and coaches of the soccer team that has been the Pope's favourite since he was a small child. They brought along the massive Copa Libertadores trophy testifying to their Aug. 13 win in the championship of Latin American clubs. They also brought a copy of the trophy for the Pope to keep.

Greeting Spanish-speakers at the audience, Pope Francis gave a special shoutout to the team, "the champions of America," and a team "that is part of my cultural identity."

As is customary at the first general audience after a foreign trip, Pope Francis shared reflections on his Aug. 14-18 visit to South Korea.

"The meaning of this apostolic visit can be summarized in three words: memory, hope and witness," he said.

The Church, he said, "is the custodian of memory and hope. It is a spiritual family in which the adults transmit to the young the flame of faith received from their ancestors; the memory of the witnesses of the past become a new witness in the present and hope for the future."

Pope Francis said that his beatifying 124 Korean martyrs and meeting young people from many countries gathered for Asian Youth Day, brought memory, hope and witness together.

"Youths are people seeking something worth living for, and martyrs give a witness of something, or rather someone, for whom it is worth giving one's life," he said. "This reality is love, it's God who became flesh in Jesus."

During the audience, the Pope prayed again for reconciliation and reunification between North and South Korea, and he asked people to continue to pray "for all persecuted Christians in the world, particularly in Iraq, and for those non-Christian religious minorities who equally are being persecuted."

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