Pope calls on faithful to join him in prayer

Pope Francis offered a special prayer for the victims of the Oklahoma City tornado during early morning Mass on Tuesday. The Pontiff also offered his condolences through his Twitter account and via a message to the city’s archbishop.

“Let us pray for the victims and the missing, especially the children, struck by the violent tornado that hit Oklahoma City yesterday. Hear us, O Lord,” the Pope said during the prayers of the faithful at Mass in the chapel of his home, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The tornado struck on Monday at about 3pm local time with the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore bearing the brunt of the disaster. The tornado reportedly stayed on the ground for more than 40 minutes, leaving a 20-mile path of death and destruction. So far at least 24 people are reported to have been killed.

A few hours after the Mass, Pope Francis also used his @Pontifex Twitter account to express his concern for the Oklahoma victims and survivors.

“I am close to the families of all who died in the Oklahoma tornado, especially those who lost young children. Join me in praying for them,” he told his followers on the social networking site.

Later in the day, the Vatican released a message to Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S Coakley, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.

The cardinal said Pope Francis “has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the devastating tornado which has struck Oklahoma,” and he asked the archbishop to convey “to the entire community the assurance of his solidarity and closeness in prayer.”