Pope praying for US tornado victims

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday assured survivors of the deadliest tornado in the United States since 1950 that he was close to them spiritually and praying for hope and strength for the homeless.

"The Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the catastrophic tornado which struck Joplin on Sunday," read a text of a telegram of solidarity sent to the local bishop in Missouri and made public by the Vatican.

In the telegram, Benedict asks Springfield-Cape Giradeau Bishop James Johnston to "convey to the entire community the assurance of his closeness in prayer, conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies head."

At least 122 people were killed and some 750 wounded by the deadliest single twister since 1950, when the U.S. National Weather Service started keeping official records. Some 80,000 buildings were destroyed. Joplin has a population of some 50,000.

Benedict said he was asking God to grant "eternal rest to the departed, consolation to the grieving and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured."

(This version corrects deadliest since 1950 instead of 1955.)