India’s Catholic Bishops have expressed shock and sadness at a tragic train accident Friday night near Amritsar city in the northern Punjab state, that killed at least 60 and injured many others.
A large crowd had gathered on the railway tracks to watch the celebrations of the popular Hindu festival of Dussehra, which involved the burning of a firecracker-filled effigy of demon king Ravana and a fireworks display.
Amidst the din of fireworks, a train running from Jalandhar to Amritsar ploughed through the crowd.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) issued a condolence statement expressing the Indian Church’s sorrow at the men, women and children who died while “celebrating their religious festival”.
Pope Francis on Sunday also expressed his “heartfelt solidarity” for the victims. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a message on the Pope’s behalf to the CBCI expressing the Holy Father’s sadness at the accident, assuring “his prayers for the deceased and those who mourn their loss.”
While praying for the eternal rest of the souls of those who perished, the Indian bishops expressed their closeness to the bereaved families. “We participate in their sorrow and pray to the Almighty for comfort and consolation. May God grant complete healing to those injured in the accident,” the CBCI statement said.
They offered their “prayers and support to all who are engaged in providing relief and succour to the victims and their families,” and questioned the frequent numbers of accidents in the country.
Data from parliament in July showed that 49,790 people were killed by trains in India between 2015 and 2017.
“This tragedy once again underlines the need to enhance railway and road safety as well as enforcement of safety norms in the organization of celebrations as every life is precious and should be protected and safeguarded in every way,” the Indian bishops wrote.