Saturday, March 25, 2023

God is near, Pope reassures kin of victims of Polish mine accident

Audience with families of deceased Polish coal miners  

Eighteen people died in April last year in southern Poland and many others were injured after two coal mine accidents in a single week.

Ten miners lost their lives at the Pniowek mine on 20 April when a tremor at the site caused methane gas to be discharged, and eight died three days later at the Boreynia-Zofiowka mine where a firestorm caused an explosion.

Pope Francis on Friday received family members of the victims of those accidents, expressed his closeness, and prayed with them in silence.

The compassion of silence

After having thanked the bereaved families for their visit, the Pope said he had no words, but the compassion of silence.

“Silence is compassionate,” he said, “To lose a husband, a father in an accident like this, is bad. And also, the fact that some are still buried in the mines...”

“I do not want to use words, but tell you that I am close to you, very close, with the closeness of my heart, and I pray with you in this very difficult and bad situation.”

The Pope said that sometimes, particularly in moments such as these, “it seems that God does not listen to us.”

“There is the silence of the dead and the silence of God. And this silence sometimes gives us anger,” Pope Francis said.

And he invited those present not to be afraid of this: “anger too is prayer.”

“It is one of the whys? that we ask in these situations," he said, "And the answer is: 'In the darkness the Lord is near. We do not know how, but he is near to us'."

The Holy Father invited his guests to pray with him in silence and imparted his apostolic blessing before greeting each one personally.


Polish prosecutors have opened investigations into the accidents, and safety conditions and procedures at both mines have come under scrutiny.

Most Polish coal mines are in the southern Silesia region and many have a high presence of methane in the rock.

Five people were killed after an earthquake struck the Zoflowka mine in Jastrzebie-Zdroj in May 2018.