Pope Francis prays with journalists on the papal flight en route to South Korea on Aug. 14, 2014. / Alan Holdren/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2022 / 05:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for the victims of New York City’s deadliest fire in decades, the Vatican said on Monday.

A Jan. 10 telegram to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said that the pope offered his “heartfelt condolences” to the families of the 19 people, including nine children, killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx on Sunday.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the recent devastating fire in the Bronx in which a number of children lost their lives,” said the message sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“In offering heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to those affected by this tragedy, he entrusts the victims and their families to the merciful love of Almighty God and invokes upon all consolation and strength in the Lord.”

The blaze, believed to have been caused by a space heater in a duplex apartment, started shortly before 11 a.m. on Dec. 9 at a 120-unit, 19-storey building known as Twin Parks on East 181st Street.

In addition to the 19 people who died in the fire, 32 people were hospitalized, several in a critical condition.

New York Mayor Eric Adams said: “This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times.”

Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, appealed for prayers for the victims in a Jan. 9 message to members of the Jesuit university of New York.

He said: “This is obviously a terrible tragedy for our Bronx neighbors. In the coming days we will decide how best to support the victims, their families, and the community. In the interim, I know you join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.”