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Pope offers prayers after murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Flowers and tributes to Daphne Caruana Galizia lay at the foot of the Great Siege monument in Valletta, Malta (Getty Images)

Pope Francis has sent a letter of condolences to Malta following the car bomb slaying of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In a highly unusual gesture from the pope over the death of a private citizen, Pope Francis said Friday he was praying for Caruana Galizia’s family and the Maltese people as a whole “at this difficult moment.”

He said he was “saddened by the tragic death.”

The overwhelmingly Catholic nation has been stunned by this week’s slaying.

The letter of condolence was addressed to Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a longtime Vatican official before he was made a bishop in his native Malta in 2012.