Pope Francis Expresses Spiritual Closeness with Victims of Deadly Fire in Benin

Pope Francis prays at his Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 12, 2023. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Pope Francis has expressed his spiritual closeness with victims of a fire incident at a shop in Southeastern Benin that reportedly resulted in the death of more than 35 people. 

On September 23, at least 35 people were killed in Seme-Podji municipality, near the border with Nigeria after a fire broke out at a shop where gasoline was being unloaded, Reuters reported September 24.

In his Tuesday, September 26 telegram message on behalf of the Holy Father, the Vatican Secretary of State addresses himself to Bishop Aristide Gonsallo of Porto Novo Diocese.

Pope Francis, Pietro Cardinal Parolin says, “has received with sorrow the news of the tragic fire that occurred in sèmè kraké on 23 September and the loss of human lives it caused.”

Cardinal Parolin adds that the Holy Father “joins the bereaved families in expressing his solidarity and sorrow.”


Cardinal Parolin says that Pope Francis “prays for the repose of the deceased, commending them to the mercy of God, and for the healing of the injured.”

The Holy Father “also expresses his support for those accompanying the victims of this tragedy,” the Vatican Secretary of State further says.

He continues, “Asking the Virgin Mary to bring strength and consolation to all those affected by this tragedy, the Holy Father invokes divine blessings on each person and on the whole nation as a sign of consolation.”

In the September 24 Reuter’s report, more than a dozen others were seriously injured and are being treated in hospital.

“The fire burned down the store and according to an initial assessment resulted in 35 deaths including one child,” State Prosecutor, Abdoubaki Adam-Bongle, was quoted as saying, adding that an investigation had been opened to determine the cause of the fire.

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Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.