Pope Francis has learnt “with dismay” of the Malaysian airliner that crashed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine yesterday.
Both sides in Ukraine's civil conflict – the Government and pro-Russian separatists – have accused each other of downing Malaysia Airlines MH17 with a missile.
In a statement Francis urged “all parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human lives”.
The statement also said he was praying for those who died and for their families.
A nun teaching at a Catholic school in eastern Sydney is believed to have been one of the 298 people who were on the plane.
The principal of Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, Hilary Johnston-Croke, said staff and students were saddened and shocked by the news of the death of Sr Philomene Tiernan RSCJ.
In a message to parents Mrs Johnston-Croke said Sr Philomene was a “wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate woman who was greatly loved by us all," Mrs Johnston-Croke said. She had been returning a retreat in Paris.
The plane is believed to have been carrying NGO workers and healthcare professionals who were due to attend the 20-25 July 20th International Aids conference in Melbourne.
A pre-conference for Catholic HIV/Aids experts is taking place in Melbourne today and tomorrow.