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Pope prays for victims of Air France crash

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday expressed his "spiritual closeness" to the victims of Monday's Air France crash. He said in a message that those on the flight had been "severely tested" and spoke of "divine mercy" for the passengers and crew of the missing plane.

Among the 228 people on board there were 32 different nationalities, including 72 French, 58 Brazilians, 26 Germans, and a number of other nationalities.

Three young Irish doctors on the flight: Jane Deasy, 27, Aisling Butler, 26, and Eithne Walls, were on their way home from a holiday in Brazil. The medics, who were friends, had qualified from Trinity College, Dublin, two years ago.

Dr Walls from Ballygowan, Co Down, was also a talented Irish dancer who had appeared on Broadway in the show Riverdance.

An ecumenical service for victims of the crash was held at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday afternoon. A large service will take place there today,(Wednesday) attended by President Sarkozy and relatives of those who were on the plane.