Pope Francis leads prayer for Philippines after typhoon

VATICAN CITY Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:26pm IST

Survivors seek refuge inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation center after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Survivors seek refuge inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation center after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday led prayers for those affected by the typhoon that killed at least 10,000 people in the Philippines.

"I wish to express my closeness to the people of the Philippines and of that region. Unfortunately there are many victims and the damage is enormous. We pray now in silence ... for our brothers and sisters, and we will seek to also send concrete help," Francis told thousands of pilgrims after his weekly Angelus from his window over St. Peter's Square.

A message from the leader of the 1.2-billion-member Catholic Church asking Twitter users to join him in prayer for the victims of typhoon Haiyan was re-tweeted almost 30,000 times.

One of the most powerful storms ever recorded swept away villages and devastated the city of Tacloban, displacing half a million people in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, the largest Christian community in Asia.

In a message to Philippine President Benigno Aquino, the Vatican's Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin passed on "heart-felt solidarity" from Francis.

"The Holy Father likewise offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of the storm. He invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation for the nation," the message read. (Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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