Three relatives of Pope Francis, including two young children, died on Tuesday when their car slammed into the back of a truck in Argentina. The Pope's nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, who was driving the car, was in a serious condition after the accident, officials said.
His children—aged eight months and two years old—were killed in the crash along with their mother, local police commissioner Carina Ferreyra said.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Pope had been informed about the accident and was deeply pained.
He asks all those who share in his pain to join him in prayer, Mr Lombardi added.
The family was travelling on a highway in the central province of Cordoba heading for Buenos Aires when their vehicle hit the back of a grain truck and burst into flames, police said. The circumstances surrounding the crash are under investigation.
Mr Bergoglio, who was hospitalised with multiple injuries, is the 38-year-old son of the Pope's late brother Alberto.
Both he and his two-year-old son were pulled from the wreckage alive and taken to hospital about 30 kilometres away, where the child died shortly after being admitted.
The patient has a guarded prognosis, hospital director Liliana Abraham said.
Truck driver Raul Pombo told local television stations he felt the impact and found Mr Bergoglio's vehicle wedged under the rear of his vehicle.
I began stopping passing cars to ask for their fire extinguishers because the car was on fire, he said.
The region's highway patrol chief, Jorge Rainieri, called the impact powerful and television pictures showed the mangled wreckage of the compact car.