WARSAW, Poland — Church leaders offered condolences after a bus carrying Polish pilgrims to the Bosnia-Herzegovina shrine of Medjugorje crashed in neighboring Croatia on Aug. 6, killing 12 and seriously injured more than 30.
“I ask everyone to pray during Sunday Masses for all those harmed, along with their loved ones,” Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said in a message to Catholics.
“We must also pray for a swift return to health among those now hospitalized, and for eternal life for those who have died.”
Polish officials said Aug. 8 they were still identifying those killed and injured when the bus, with pilgrims from central Poland, crashed early Aug. 6 on Croatia’s A4 highway near Varazdin, a day after leaving the Polish national sanctuary of Jasna Gora.
Addressing Rome pilgrims Aug. 7, Pope Francis said he had “sadly learned” of the fatal accident and invoked the Mary’s intercession for the victims, who Polish media said included three Catholic priests and six nuns.
Croatia’s Zagreb Archdiocese said Aug. 6 that victims were being cared for at hospitals in the capital, adding that Cardinal Josip Bozanic had asked Caritas to offer accommodation to visiting family members.
On Aug. 8, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said several injured passengers were still “fighting for their lives.”
Father Artur Niemira, Wloclawek diocesan spokesman, told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency, KAI, the coach had landed in a concrete drainage ditch, causing the high fatality and injury rates.
The accident took place as tens of thousands of foot pilgrims from across Poland converged on Jasna Gora for the annual Aug. 15 Assumption festival.
Poland’s Kalisz, Radom and Wloclawek dioceses confirmed that Catholics from local parishes had been on the bus pilgrimage, organized by the Silesia-based Brotherhood of St Joseph.