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Pope prays for trapped miners in Chile

A makeshift shrine set up by relatives of the trapped miners (Photo: AP)

Pope Benedict XVI has said that he is praying for miners in Chile who have been trapped underground for more than three weeks.

The Holy Father said that he felt “particular affection for the miners who are trapped”, and assured them of his “spiritual closeness”, as well as his “continuous prayers, so that they maintain calm as they await a happy fulfilment of the work being done for their rescue”.

He said he had commended the miners and their families to the intercession of St Lawrence, the patron of miners.

The Pope’s assurance was given during a greeting in Spanish to the crowds that had gathered for his midday Angelus, at the summer papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.

Crowds broke into cheers and shouts of “Viva il Papa”, “Long live the Pope”, at the papal message.

Although the miners have been trapped since August 5, it was more than two weeks later, on August 22, that it was discovered that they were still alive, when the miners attached a note to a probe sent into the mine, which said: “All 33 of us are fine in the shelter.”

Since the discovery at the San José mine, near Copiapó, a week ago, rescuers have been sending the miners water, food, and playing cards, as well as messages and a Chilean flag.

A crucifix has already been sent down to the miners, and they have requested religious statues be sent down as well so they can convert part of the shelter into a shrine.

The miners are trapped 2,300ft beneath the ground. Drilling has already begun, but it is estimated that it will take at least three months to complete the rescue tunnel.

The Pope also used the Angelus to welcome 60 new seminarians, who are beginning their studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The students at the seminary sang “Ad Multos Annos” for the Pope, to which he responded with applause.

The Holy Father told them that he hoped their time in Rome would help them to “draw closer to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving”.