Pope Francis ‘profoundly saddened’ at news of relatives’ death in road collision

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

Pope Francis was deeply grieved, the Vatican's official broadcasting service said, after the deaths of three relatives who were killed when their car slammed into the back of a truck on a highway in central Argentina. Video: Reuters

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 08:36

Pope Francis has asked people to pray with him for relatives of his who were killed and injured yesterday in a car crash in Argentina. Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said the pope was “profoundly saddened” at the news that three of his relatives had died in the crash, which his nephew survived, and asked that “all those who share in his grief join with him in prayer”.

The victims were the wife of the pope’s nephew and her two young children, aged two years and eight months. His nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, was seriously injured in the accident. He is the son of Alberto Bergoglio, the pope’s late brother. Local police commissioner Carina Ferreyra said Horacio Bergoglio had been hospitalised with multiple injuries and was in a serious condition.

The collision happened on a highway in the central province of Cordoba, about 550km northwest 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) yesterday.

Pope Francis is himself back in Rome following an intensive five-day visit to South Korea which concluded last Monday. 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 said “it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor” but emphasised the word “halt”, pointing out that it did not mean to “bomb”. People must not forget “how many times with the excuse of halting the unjust aggressor . . . have powerful nations taken possession of peoples and waged a war of conquest.”

UN to halt aggression

One nation cannot judge how to stop an unjust aggressor, he said, and pointed to the UN as the proper venue to discuss the matter. His visit to Albania next month was in part because it had a Government of national unity involving Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. “The presence of the pope is to tell all peoples that it is possible to work together,” he said.

He visited Benedict XVI before departure for Korea and they discussed theological questions. He said he considered Benedict’s resignation a noble, humble and courageous gesture and hoped, should conditions be such, he would do the same. “He opened a door which is ‘institutional’ not ‘exceptional’,” Pope Francis said.

He confirmed he had written an encyclical on the environment, which was currently being revised, and that he planned to visit the US next year. He was also ready to go to China “tomorrow”, if the Government there allowed him.

At 78, he said he knew he had to slow down. He had taken some vacation time where he read a book about being “happy to be neurotic”. He quipped: “I have some neuroses and you need to treat them well.” One neurosis he admitted to was being “a bit too attached to life”. The last time he had taken a holiday was with the Jesuit community outside Buenos Aires, in 1975.

He has learned how to handle his celebrity status as pope by reflecting on his errors and his own mortality. “I try to think of my sins and my mistakes . . . because I know that this will not last long, two or three years, and then, to the House of the Father,” he said.

Beatification

There were, he said, no doctrinal problems blocking the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero who, as archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He said the case had previously been “blocked, out of prudence” by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but that had now been “unblocked”.