Pope Francis prayed vespers at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City Thursday evening. Francis began his remarks by expressing his solidarity with his "Muslim brothers and sisters" following the stampede during the hajj in Saudi Arabia, where more than 700 people were killed. From the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Francis offered a prayer for the victims and a message to Muslims. Francis expressed his "sentiments of closeness in face of tragedy that they suffered in Mecca."
He also expressed regret that his greeting to Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, could not be warmer in light of the tragedy in Mecca. [SEE PHOTOS FROM ST. PATRICK'S]
The hajj is one of Islam's five pillars of faith. Muslims are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able to do so.