Vatican City, Jan 8, 2020 / 05:39 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has offered his prayers for the souls of the 176 passengers of a Ukrainian International Airlines flight, who died when the plane crashed near Tehran, Iran on Wednesday.
The deadly crash took place Jan. 8, approximately 10 minutes after the plane took off from Imam Khomeini international airport at 6:12 am local time.
“Pope Francis commends the souls of the deceased to the merciful love of the Almighty, and he sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives,” stated a Jan. 8 message.
Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram said the pope heard the news with “deep sadness.”
“Upon all affected by this tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s blessings of strength and peace,” it concluded.
The plane was bound for Kyiv, Ukraine when it went down, killing 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said.
Nine of the 11 Ukrainians killed were crew members of the plane. There were no survivors, according to Pir Hossein Kulivand, an Iranian emergency official.
Iran’s head of emergency operations said the number of Iranian victims was 147, suggesting that many of the foreign victims had dual nationalities.
Iranian officials have said the cause of the accident was a faulty engine.
According to The Independent, the Ukrainian embassy in Iran has appeared to have removed an early statement in which they suggested the cause of the accident was a technical failure and that terrorist attack or missile strike had been ruled out.
A new statement appeared on the same website later the same day, stating that “previous comments” about the cause of the crash were not official and an official inquiry will be conducted.
Iranian and Ukrainian officials have said they suspect the cause to be mechanical issues.
Reuters reported that Urkainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk urged people not to speculate about the accident until officially established.