Pope John Paul II sent a message of condolence to all concerned, shortly after hearing of the death of 113 people in the tragic crash of the Air France Concorde shortly after departure from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport.
    The telegram was worded by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and sent to Archbishop Louis-Marie Bille of Lyon, president of the Conference of Bishops of France.
    It said: "The Holy Father.. expresses his sincere condolences and assures his deep sympathy and his spiritual closeness to all those touched by this drama, especially the families and friends of the persons who died, members of the personnel of the airline company and all rescuers."
    The Pope's message was read to grieving relatives gathered in the crash site town of Gonesse, by Monsignor Bernard Lagoudt, secretary general of the French Episcopal Conference.
    Monsignor Lagoudt commented afterwards: "It was an incredibly intense atmosphere. The relatives were completely silent but there was great emotion and tears when music by Pergoleisi was played. It was the first chance for these families to meet each other and perhaps gain mutual strength."
28 July 00

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