Close relatives of Pope Francis killed in road collision

Infant great-nephews of Pontiff die with their mother in Argentina

Pope Francis gestures while speaking to journalists aboard the flight from South Korea to Italy on Monday. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

Pope Francis gestures while speaking to journalists aboard the flight from South Korea to Italy on Monday. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 14:54

Three relatives of Pope Francis, two great nephews and their mother, have been killed in a traffic collision in Argentina.

The dead include a baby of eight months and a two-year-old toddler, local police commissioner Carina Ferreyra said.

The father, the Pope’s nephew Horacio Bergoglio, has been hospitalised with multiple injuries. He is the son of Alberto, the Pope’s late brother.

Commissioner Ferreyra said he is is in serious condition.

The collision happened as the family was travelling on a highway in the central province of Cordoba, about 550 kilometres north-west of the capital Buenos Aires, near the city of James Craik.

It is believed the car hit a truck from behind after midnight (local time/4am Irish time).

Pope Francis is himself back in Rome following an intensive five day visit to South Korea. In an hour long discussion with reporters on his flight back to Rome he said the international community would be justified in stopping Islamist militants in Iraq, but that it should not be up to a single nation to decide how to intervene in the conflict.

He also said he planned to visit the US next year and that he was ready to go to China “tomorrow” if the communist government allowed him.

He realised at the age of 78 that he had to slow down and be more “prudent” with his health and that he had learned how to handle the super-star status he has gained since coming to office last year by thinking of his errors and his own imminent mortality.

There were, he said, no doctrinal problems blocking the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, one of the heroes of the liberation theology movement in Latin America who, as Archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels.

Pope Francis said Archbishop Romero’s case had previously been “blocked out of prudence” by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but has now been “unblocked”.