“Learning of the devastation wrought by hurricane Matthew, which has caused numerous victims and considerable damage, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his sadness and assures his prayer for all those who have lost a loved one,” the Oct. 7 telegram read.
Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and addressed to the president of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Chibly Langlois, the letter expressed the pope’s “deep sympathy in these painful circumstances.”
A category three storm with winds racing at 120 mph, the hurricane is the most powerful Caribbean storm in a decade and has devastated Haiti, which is still reeling from the catastrophic earthquake that crushed much of the country in 2010.
With more than 300 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, according to CNN, the country was hardest hit in the southeast, with many in towns and fishing villages killed by debris, falling trees and swollen rivers.
According to the U.N. Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 350,000 people are in need of assistance. The Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal for $6.9m in order to provide medical help, shelter, water and sanitation to around 50,000 people, the BBC reports.
Hurricane Matthew has now headed toward the coast of Florida after tearing through Haiti and pounding Cuba and the Bahamas, however, it has yet to make landfall.
In his telegram, the pope entrusted the deceased to the mercy of God, asking that the Lord would “welcome them into his light.” He assured his closeness to the injured and those who have lost their homes, and encouraged solidarity.
The pope entrusted the Haitian people to the “maternal protection” of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and gave them his Apostolic Blessing.