Pope Says He is Spiritually Close to Families of Astronauts

Vatican City-AP -- Pope John Paul has invited everyone to pray for the astronauts who were killed in the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia

Appearing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square, the pontiff said he was spiritually close to the families of the victims and assured them of remembrance and prayer.

A large crowd below stood in silence for a few moments after those words, before the pontiff went on with remarks about other world events.

He says the sorrowful news stirs up strong emotions in everyone.

On Saturday, Vatican officials said that the pontiff received the news with great sadness and prayed for the astronauts.

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