Church leaders offered condolences after a bus carrying Polish pilgrims to the Bosnia-Herzegovina shrine of Medjugorje crashed in neighbouring Croatia, 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 hospitalised, and for eternal life for those who have died.”
Polish officials said on 8th August that they were still identifying those killed and injured when the bus, with pilgrims from central Poland, crashed early on 6th August on Croatia’s A4 highway near Varazdin, a day after leaving the Polish national sanctuary of Jasna Gora.
Addressing Rome pilgrims on 7th August, Pope Francis said he had “sadly learned” of the fatal accident and invoked Mary’s intercession for the victims, who Polish media said included three Catholic priests and six nuns.
Croatia’s Zagreb Archdiocese said on 6th August 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 8th August, 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, that 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 August 15th Assumption festival.
Poland’s Kalisz, Radom and Wloclawek dioceses confirmed that Catholics from local parishes had been on the bus pilgrimage, organised by the Silesia-based Brotherhood of St Joseph.
Picture: Rescuers work at the scene where a bus with Polish license plates slipped off a road near Varazdin, Croatia, on 6th August 2022. Praying that Our Lady intercede for the victims and their families, Pope Francis remembered the 12 Polish pilgrims who perished in the crash en route to a pilgrimage in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (CNS photo/Antonio Bronic, Reuters)