Four Catholic Relief Service staff members on their way to a training session in Nairobi, Kenya, were among the passengers aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed moments after takeoff in the east African nation.
The accident March 10 claimed the lives of 157 people on board, many of them from humanitarian agencies.
Others on the jetliner included a Georgetown University law school student who was serving as a campus minister, and 19 staff members of U.N. agencies. Two Kenyan religious, Mariannhill Father George Kageche Mukua and an unidentified nun, were also among those killed in the crash.
Pope Francis offered prayers for the passengers from 35 countries in a telegram March 11.
“Having learned with sadness of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, His Holiness Pope Francis offers prayers for the deceased from various countries and commends their souls to the mercy of almighty God. Pope Francis sends heartfelt condolences to their families, and upon all who mourn this tragic loss he invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength,” said the telegram from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
In a statement March 11, Catholic Relief Services shared the news of the tragedy involving its staffers, all Ethiopian nationals.
The dead include Getnet Alemayehu, Mulusew Alemu, Sintayehu Aymeku and Sara Chalachew. They worked in various administrative positions for CRS.
“Although we are in mourning, we celebrate the lives of these colleagues and the selfless contributions they made to our mission, despite the risks and sacrifices that humanitarian work can often entail,” CRS said.
Catholic Relief Services is the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. In Washington, D.C., Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed sadness at the “deaths of four of our esteemed colleagues.”
In a letter to Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour, chairman of the board of CRS, the cardinal said he had asked all bishops in the U.S. to pray for the repose of the souls of the four workers.
“May the consolation of the Savior’s embrace be now a source of comfort to their loved ones and co-workers on this difficult and painful day,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote March 11.
Cedric Asiavugwa, a third-year law student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and campus minister, was among the passengers. A letter sent to the Georgetown community late March 10 said he was on his way home to Nairobi because of the death of his fiancee’s mother.
Asiavugwa was a residential minister at Georgetown. He had served as assistant director of advancement at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, a free high school for orphans with HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, before enrolling at the law school. He also had served refugees and marginalized people Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and Zimbabwe before enrolling at Georgetown, the letter said.
During the current semester at Georgetown, Asiavugwa was enrolled in the Center for Applied Legal Studies clinic, working with refugees seeking asylum in the U.S.
“Cedric’s goal was to return to Kenya after his studies to pursue a career promoting the rights of refugees in East Africa and beyond,” said a letter from Jesuit Father Mark Bosco, executive vice president and dean at Georgetown’s law school.
The day of the crash, the Ethiopian Catholic bishops also sent condolences issued in the country’s Amharic language and offered prayers “for those who have lost their lives, that they may rest in peace in heaven.”
A list of the dead released by Ethiopian Airlines included eight from the United States.
Aviation officials from Ethiopia were investigating the accident, the second in recent months involving the brand-new Boeing 737 Max jet. In October, a Lyon Air flight killed 189 people in Indonesia.