Pope Francis sends personal blessing to people of Creeslough after petrol station explosion leaves 10 dead


Pope Francis has sent a personal message of sympathy to the people of Creeslough following Friday’s tragedy.

The Pope sent the message in a letter sent to the Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian SJ, through the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The message reads “His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction caused by the explosion in Creeslough and he expressed his spiritual closeness to all those suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy.

“While entrusting the deceased to the merciful love of Almighty God, his Holiness implores the Devine blessings of consolation and healing upon the injured, the displaced and the families coping with pain of loss.

“As a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord, the Holy Father sends his blessing to all the people in Ireland.”

Mass was held in the village church on Saturday morning, during which Father John Joe Duffy told the congregation their community had been hit by “a tsunami of grief”.

Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe described Friday as the “darkest day in Donegal”.

“I have witnessed at first hand the immediate reaction of the local community to the tragedy who, in their bravery, took risks at the site to help others even to the detriment of their own safety,” he said.

The taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin was among several senior politicians to attend a vigil Mass in Creeslough on the Saturday evening. Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald from Sinn Féin and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also attended.

Ten candles were lit at St Michael’s Church by Bishop McGuckian to represent the lives lost in the explosion.

Bishop Guckian said it was an “experience we are living through together” and one where the community must keep those killed, injured and those who helped attend the tragic scene in their thoughts and prayers.

The bishop said “anybody could have been caught up in” the tragedy.

“Why did they have to be there at that awful moment?,” he said.

Capuchin Brother Philip Baxter of Ards Friary in Creeslough has also been reflecting on the church service that followed Friday’s tragic events.

He said: “There was a Mass yesterday morning and, again, the chapel was absolutely packed and it was the first time the community had come together and what I noticed was the silence.

“There was a numbness to the silence, but it wasn’t only the numbness; it was people reaching again to that inner place of silence,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme.

“What has struck me over the two days since this happened is the sense of resilience that was really and truly immediately evident,” he said.

Also speaking on the same programme, Bishop McGuckian paid tribute to the emergency services who responded to the explosion.

He said: “[They] had jobs to do that were extraordinarily harrowing and difficult.

“We all saw them going beyond themselves, stepping out of themselves and conducting themselves with dignity and decency. That was just amazing.”

BBC Northern Ireland correspondent Kevin Sharkey said “This community is now focusing on the families, to support and comfort those who are grieving for the loss of 10 people – seven adults, two secondary school children and a primary school child,” said BBC Northern Ireland news correspondent Kevin Sharkey.

“The community here is also waiting for more news about the eight people who’ve been injured, including one who is in a critical condition in a Dublin hospital.

“Creeslough carries this heavy burden of sorrow, it’s been finding comfort in messages of solidarity from far beyond this community, including the Irish diaspora around the world.

“Today, the names of those who died will emerge, and reinforce the scale of this human tragedy and it’s personal impact on so many families in this sparsely-populated rural community in Donegal.”

Westlife star Brian McFadden has said he shares the grief of the people of Creeslough having only visited the village recently.

He said his ‘heart is broken’ for his family’s hometown.

Brian took to Twitter yesterday to send his thoughts and prayers to those effected by the devastation.

The singer’s father Brendan is from Creeslough.

He said: “Sending my thoughts to all the my family and friends in my family home town of Creeslough.

“My heart is broken with the news.

“I was only there a few weeks a go. Praying for you all.”

The 42-year-old added today: “It’s heartbreaking to see such a terrible thing happen to such a small well knitted community.

“The whole town have been up all night banding together whether it be supplying food and comfort or even just directing traffic.”

Former England, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest footballer Stan Collymore also paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragedy, after it was learned that one of those killed, 14 year old Leona Harper, was a devoted Liverpool fan.

The well known footballer took to social media to send his condolences after the sad passing of ten people after the explosion at the Applegreen petrol station in Creeslough.

“Some of the warmest and genuine people I’ve met were from Letterkenny, Buncrana and Inch in Donegal on one of many wonderful trips to a special part of the world.

“Sending much love to everyone in Creeslough, You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Liverpool FC tweeted “Leona was a massive LFC fan and today should have been a day to enjoy with her family and dad Hugh with LFC taking on Arsenal.

“Our thoughts are with all in this very difficult time.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Leona. Our thoughts are with her family and friends, as well as all those affected by Friday’s tragedy.”



BBC Northern Ireland and Donegal Daily