The Pope asked tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, March 16, to pray for the passengers and crew of the Malaysian airline plane that disappeared on March 8, and for their families
Pope Francis on Sunday asked people to pray for the passengers and crew of the Malaysian Airlines plane that left Kuala Lumpur airport for Beijing on 8 March but disappeared, and for their families.
There were 239 persons aboard the Boeing 777, including some 151 Chinese and many Malaysians.
The Malaysian authorities are not excluding the possibility that the plane was hijacked. Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters on Saturday that the plane veered off course due to apparent deliberate action taken by somebody on board. Five of the passengers were travelling on false passports, news reports say.
The Pope expressed his concern and called for prayers just after midday, Sunday March 16, when he spoke to tens of thousands of pilgrims from many countries gathered in St Peter’s Square, and gave them his blessing.
“I invite you to remember in prayer the passengers and crew of the Malaysia airline, and for their families. We are close to them in this difficult moment”, the Pope said.
The disappearance of the Malaysian Airliner has had a major impact on the Government and people of Malaysia. The possibility that the plane was hijacked has caused great concern at home and abroad. Some 25 countries in the region and beyond have been involved in the search including China, India, Japan and the USA.
The Pope’s words come at a moment of great concern in this majority Muslim country of 28 million people, with a Christian population of over 9%, with which the Holy See has enjoyed good relations ever since it gained its independence in 1957. Malaysia established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in July 2011, and Benedict XVI appointed the first resident nuncio (ambassador) to the country in January 2013, the American born Archbishop Joseph Marino.
His words are also significant, as the majority of the passengers are Chinese, and there is great concern in that country too for the fate of their fellow Chinese which at this moment is unknown. In recent times Pope Francis has expressed his love for the Chinese people, and this is yet another instance of that at a moment of great concern for them.