By Hannah Brockhaus
On Saturday Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the victims of a devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London, offering his condolences for the families of those who have died.
A June 17 telegram sent to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, stated that Pope Francis “was saddened to learn of the devastating fire in London and of the tragic loss of life and injury.”
The Pope “entrusts the souls of those who have died to the Lord’s loving mercy and offers his heartfelt condolences to their families,” it stated.
Signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram went on to express the Pope’s appreciation “for the brave efforts of the emergency service personnel and all committed to supporting those who have lost their homes.”
Concluding, Francis also invoked upon the whole local community “God’s blessings of strength and peace.”
On June 14, just after midnight, a fire began on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower located in north Kensington, a district of west London. The 24-story building is home to hundreds of people, and the fire blazed until early in the morning.
The cause of the fire is still unknown. A fire investigation report will not be released publicly until the opening of full inquests into those who have died, which could take years, the Guardian reports.
So far, 30 people are confirmed dead, while more than 70 people remain unaccounted for, and friends and family are scrambling to connect with their loved ones. As of Wednesday, some 70 people had been hospitalized for injuries sustained in the incident, including 20 people whose condition is critical.
Hundreds of others who escaped the flames have still lost their homes and all of their belongings, but Catholic parishes in the surrounding area have quickly begun receiving donations of food, clothes, and water to be distributed.
Saint Clemente, one nearby church, has seen such an outpouring that it has asked for future donations to be given to a church a few blocks away.
In the wake of the tragedy, grief has also led to anger at what has been perceived as a failure by authorities to take seriously the concerns of Grenfell residents prior to the fire, as well as a lack of official presence and coordination in the hours following.
Protests have gathered steam and on Friday demonstrators stormed Kensington town hall calling on authorities to provide financial support for victims and to rehouse residents within the borough.