Pope Francis expressed sorrow at the tragedy that occurred in Israel over the weekend during his traditional Sunday address.
“With sadness I express my closeness to the people of Israel because of the accident last Friday on Mount Meron, which caused the death of 45 people and numerous injuries,” he told those gathered. “I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for the victims of this tragedy and for their families.”
At least 45 people were killed on Friday in Israel during a crush on Mount Meron at a religious festival marking Lag B’Omer. Israel was observing a national day of mourning on Sunday for the 45 victims, who ranged in age from 9 to 65. The final funerals for the victims were scheduled for Sunday, and 16 people remain hospitalized following the event.
Flags were lowered to half-staff at the Knesset and President Reuven Rivlin’s official residence, and ceremonies were expected at the Knesset and army bases. A cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday was canceled. Concerts and sports events were postponed. The Jerusalem school system announced it would dedicate its studies on Sunday to the tragedy.
Elected representatives and public officials have begun to point fingers over the tragedy, considered the deadliest civilian disaster in Israel’s history. Many have called for a state commission of inquiry into the incident.
Following the disaster, Israel placed restrictions on the Holy Fire ceremony that traditionally marks Orthodox Easter at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter.
Pope Francis last visited Israel in 2014, where he met with Israeli and Palestinian officials and toured Bethlehem and Jerusalem.