ROME – Pope Francis has expressed sadness over “the tragic loss of life and injury” caused by a devastating fire at the Grenfell Tower in west London, where the official death toll stands at 30 people but at least 70 are believed to still be missing.
“His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the devastating fire in London and of the tragic loss of life and injury,” said a telegram released by the Vatican on Saturday. “He entrusts the souls of those who have died to the Lord’s loving mercy and offers his heartfelt condolences to their families.”
The telegram was addressed to Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, and signed by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
“With appreciation for the brave efforts of the emergency service personnel and all committed to supporting those who have lost their homes, His Holiness invokes upon the local community God’s blessings of strength and peace,” Parolin told Nichols.
Queen Elizabeth II issued a birthday statement in the wake of the fire acknowledging a “very somber national mood,” and she appeared close to tears on Friday during a visit to an assistance center set up for residents of the Grenfell Tower.
Outrage over both the causes of the fire and the government response to it have spilled over into street protests in Kensington and central London, and British Prime Minister Teresa May was heckled as she left a church in Kensington on Friday amid criticism that she’s failed to recognize the national anguish and that the government has lagged in its response to the crisis.
The British government has announced the creation of a $6.4 million discretionary fund to feed, clothe and house those made homeless by the fire, but continues to face accusations that safety warnings over the years were ignored.
The British press is reporting that almost $4 million in private donations has also been raised to support victims of the fire.