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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

142 Die in Congo

BRAZZAVILLE -- Congo, stunned by the death of 142 Roman Catholics in a crowd stampede at a Brazzaville church, canceled Independence Day celebrations and replaced them with a requiem mass.

The Vatican's diplomatic representative in Congo, Diego Causero, read a message of sympathy from Pope John Paul II on Monday to the families of those -- mainly children -- who were crushed or suffocated at Brazzaville's church of Saint-Pierre Claver on Friday evening.

Up to 50,000 Catholics had gathered at the church, drawn by claims that a preacher would work miracles. Witnesses said a sudden downpour led to a surge in the crowd and as people lost their footing they were trampled and suffocated to death.