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Catholic leader offers prayers for victims of China boat disaster

More than 450 people were on board the Eastern Star vessel when it sank on Monday in bad weather in Jianli in Hubei province

Pope Francis prays during Palm Sunday Mass

Pope Francis on Wednesday offered prayers for the victims of a major cruise ship disaster on China’s Yangtze River.

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It was gathered that more than 450 people were on board the Eastern Star vessel when it sank on Monday in bad weather in Jianli in Hubei province.

According to local reports so far 14 people had been rescued while 12 were confirmed dead.

“I am close to the Chinese people in this difficult moment due to the ferry disaster on the Yangtze River.

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“I pray for the victims; for their families and for all those who are involved in the rescue,’’ Francis said during his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.

The Vatican has difficult relations with China but has been trying for decades to improve them.

Communist China broke off relations with the Holy See in 1951 and has set up a parallel, state-sanctioned Catholic Church.

Catholics who have remained loyal to the Vatican often face harassment and are forced underground.

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