Silence can be compassionate; anger can be prayer, pope says

Pope Francis holds a statue while greeting young people during an audience at the Vatican March 24, 2023. The pope greeted and prayed with about 80 people, including many widows and their children, who lost loved ones in one of the two coal mine disasters in southern Poland in late April 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) ─ Silence can be compassionate and, sometimes, anger can be prayer, Pope Francis told families who lost loved ones in two coal mine disasters in Poland a year ago.

"To lose a husband, a father in an accident like this is terrible. And, also, the fact that some people are still buried there in the mines...." the pope told about 80 people, including many children, during an audience at the Vatican March 24.

Ten people were confirmed dead after a tremor at the Borynia-Zofiówka mine near Poland's southern border with the Czech Republic hit April 23, 2022, and triggered the release of deadly methane gas and flooding in an underground gallery. Just 50 hours earlier, two methane explosions killed nine people and left another 20 injured and seven more missing at a mine in Pniówek, also near the Czech border, April 20, 2022.

Pope Francis thanked the families of the deceased for their visit and apologized for not knowing the right thing to say.

"Silence is compassionate," he said.

Instead of offering them "words," the pope said he just wanted to tell them that "I am close to you" and was praying with them "in this very difficult and terrible situation."

Sometimes, he said, "it seems that God is not listening to us. There is the silence of the dead and the silence of God. And this silence sometimes causes us to be angry."

"Don't be afraid," he said, because "that anger is a prayer" that asks "why?"

"And the answer is, 'In the darkness the Lord is near,'" he said. "We do not know how, but he is near us."