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Church leaders pray for victims of quake off Mexican coast


  • A patient is seen outside a hospital early Sept. 8 in Villahermosa, Mexico, after an earthquake struck hours earlier. The magnitude-8.1 quake was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City. (CNS photo/Stringer, EPA)
  • People gather on a street in Mexico City Sept. 8 after an earthquake struck Mexico late Sept. 7. The magnitude 8.1 quake was felt as far as Guatemala City. (CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters)
  • People look at the damaged floor of their yard early Sept. 8 in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, after a magnitude 8.1earthquake struck hours earlier. The quake was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City. (CNS photo/Angel Hernandez, EPA)
  • People gather on a street in Mexico City after an earthquake hit Mexico late Sept. 7. The magnitude 8.1 quake was felt as far as Guatemala City. (CNS photo/Claudia Daut, Reuters)
  • People are evacuated from Puerto Madero, Mexico, early Sept. 8 after an earthquake struck the country hours earlier. The magnitude 8.1 quake was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City. (CNS photo/Jose Torres, Reuters)
  • Patients and family members are seen outside the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers in Puebla, Mexico, early Sept. 8., after an earthquake struck during the night. The magnitude 8.1 quake was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City. (CNS photo/Imelda Medina, Reuters)
  • A man walks next to an earthquake-damaged building in Juchitan, Mexico, Sept. 9. (CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, Reuters)
  • People in Mexico City stand in line Sept. 9 to donate goods to people affected by the earthquake. (CNS photo/Ginnette Riquelme, Reuters)
  • Volunteers in Mexico City Sept. 9 organize donations that are to be delivered to people affected by the earthquake. (CNS photo/Ginnette Riquelme, Reuters)

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CARTAGENA, Colombia (CNS) -- Church leaders prayed for Mexicans and Guatemalans affected by the magnitude 8.1 earthquake that struck the Pacific Coast.

At the end of Mass in Villavicencio, Colombia, Sept. 8, Pope Francis prayed "for all the people who are suffering because of the earthquake last night in Mexico."

In an early morning tweet, the Mexican bishops' conference prayed, "God strengthen us as brothers in the faith to (be) available to those that have suffered in this strong earthquake."

Later, the bishops said, "We want to express our solidarity with the Mexican people in the face of this suffering caused by the earthquake last night. ... We offer prayers for the victims and especially the family and populations affected, mainly in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco."

They also praised "the many prevention and security measures undertaken in buildings, along with the immediate actions of the authorities through civil protection programs."

"We realize, however, how far we have to go in our caring for creation," they added.

The Sept. 7 quake occurred shortly before midnight. In less than 24 hours, Mexico's seismology service reported more than 260 aftershocks, with the strongest registering magnitude 6.1.

By midday Sept. 8, Mexican officials put the death toll at 35, with 25 of the deaths occurring in the southern state of Oaxaca. Two children died in Tabasco state, with one dying after being crushed by a falling wall. The toll was expected to climb, and school was canceled in 10 states and Mexico City so officials could assess structural damage.

Father Alejandro Solalinde, a priest working with migrants in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, an especially hard hit area of Oaxaca state, tweeted "solidarity and prayers with those affected by the earthquake in Mexico. Eternal rest for the deceased. Amen."

Several churches in the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas were damaged, according to media reports. A diocesan spokesman was unable to comment on the extent of the damage.

Across the border in Guatemala, the Catholic cathedral in Huehuetenango reported moderate damage. In San Marcos, Guatemala, the hospital was damaged, and rescuers reported moderate infrastructure damage.

Shortly after the earthquake occurred, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales took to Twitter to reassure citizens. Pena Nieto called the quake "the strongest in almost a century."

Morales urged Guatemalans: "Please maintain calm and be on alert; we'll have more information soon."

The quake appeared to do little serious damage to Mexico City, which was devastated by a similarly strong quake in 1985. That earthquake left thousands dead and many more homeless. The federal government -- responsible for Mexico City at the time -- offered an inept response, forcing people to fend for themselves, and many Mexicans rose to the occasion by forming brigades to pull people out of rubble, including babies from a collapsed children's hospital.

Since that disaster, building codes in the national capital have improved, and earthquake drills are commonly practiced by apartment residents and office workers.

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden.

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Follow Agren and Wooden on Twitter: @el_reportero and @Cindy_Wooden.

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