By Dennis Sadowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Four Catholic Relief Service staff members on their way to a training session in Nairobi, Kenya, were among the passengers aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed moments after takeoff in the east African nation. The accident March 10 claimed the lives of 157 people on board, many of them from humanitarian agencies.
Others on the jetliner included a Georgetown University law school student who was serving as a campus minister and 19 staff members of U.N. agencies. Two Kenyan religious, Mariannhill Father George Kageche Mukua and an unidentified nun, were also among those killed in the crash.
Pope Francis offered prayers for the passengers from 35 countries in a telegram March 11.
“Having learned with sadness of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, His Holiness Pope Francis offers prayers for the deceased from various countries and commends their souls to the mercy of almighty God. Pope Francis sends heartfelt condolences to their families, and upon all who mourn this tragic loss he invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength,” said the telegram from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
In a statement March 11, Catholic Relief Services shared the news of the tragedy involving its staffers, who were all Ethiopian nationals.
The dead include Getnet Alemayehu, Mulusew Alemu, Sintayehu Aymeku and Sara Chalachew. They worked in various administrative positions for CRS.
“Although we are in mourning, we celebrate the lives of these colleagues and the selfless contributions they made to our mission, despite the risks and sacrifices that humanitarian work can often entail,” CRS said.“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and all of those who lost loved one as a result of this tragedy.”
Catholic Relief Services is the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. In Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed sadness at the “deaths of four of our esteemed colleagues.”
In a letter to Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour, chairman of the board of CRS, the cardinal said he had asked all bishops in the U.S. to pray for the repose of the souls of the four workers.
“May the consolation of the Savior’s embrace be now a source of comfort to their loved ones and co-workers on this difficult and painful day,” wrote Cardinal DiNardo.
The day of the crash, March 11, the Ethiopian Catholic bishops also sent condolence and offered prayers “for those who have lost their lives, that they may rest in peace in heaven.”