After an earthquake along the border of Iraqi-Iranian border left some 340 people dead and another 4,000 injured, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the loss of life and offered prayer for the dead and for rescue efforts.
In identical telegrams signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and sent to leaders in both Iran and Iraq, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by news of the quake, and assured all those affected of his “prayerful solidarity.”
Voicing sorrow to the families of the victims, the Pope offered prayer for the deceased and entrusted them to God's mercy. He also prayed for the injured and the emergency personnel and civil authorities engaged in rescue efforts.
He closed the telegram asking God for the “divine blessings of consolation and strength.”
The Pope's telegram came just one day after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the border region between Iran and Iraq, with aftershocks felt in Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey.
According to CNN, most of the deaths are from Iran. The agency reports that so far 336 deaths have been confirmed in Iran, with another 3,950 injured, while in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq seven deaths have been reported along with 300 injuries.
Rescue operations are underway in both countries, and Iran has already declared a 3-day period of mourning.
The quake is the strongest to hit the region in recent years, though not the most deadly. Iran, which sits along a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, has experienced a number of earthquakes, with the most deadly being a 6.6 quake in 2003 that struck the city of Bam and killed some 26,000 people.
A decade earlier, in June 1990, roughly 37,000 people were killed in a major quake that leveled the cities of Rudbar, Manjil and Lushan.