Relatives mourn after identifying the victims of an Air India Express passenger plane crash outside a hospital in Mangalore, India, May 23. CNS photo

MANGALORE, INDIA – Bishop Aloysius D’Souza of Mangalore said his diocese is ready to help the families of those who perished in the May 22 airline crash that killed 158 people.

“But first we are trying to ascertain through the parish priests the actual need, and then we will respond accordingly,” he told the Asian Church agency UCA News a day after the disaster.
Bishop D’Souza said 17 or 18 Catholics from the diocese lost their lives when an Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot a hilltop runway, plunged over a cliff and burst into flames on impact. Eight of the 166 people onboard survived the crash.

Most of the travellers were migrant workers. Thousands of people from southwestern India travel to European and Persian Gulf nations for work.

“I am trying to visit the grieving family members,” the bishop said, adding that he had already attended two funerals.

The Mangalore Diocese planned a special Mass for the victims. Meanwhile, parishes across India prayed for the dead and their families.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said the “the horrifying tragedy” was “most shocking and disturbing” for the Church in India as well as for the entire country.

“Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and relatives of the victims. We earnestly pray for the departed souls of the innocent people who lost their lives in the plane crash,” the bishops said in a statement May 23. n