CNA Staff, Jan 20, 2021 / 09:30 am (CNA).- At least three people are believed to have died after an explosion on Wednesday devastated a building belonging to a Catholic parish in the Spanish capital, Madrid.

The explosion took place near the Puerta de Toledo in central Madrid after 3 p.m. local time on Jan. 20.

The archdiocese of Madrid said that the explosion may have been caused by a gas leak in the building owned by the Parish of the Virgen de la Paloma and San Pedro el Real.

It said that priests lived on two floors of the building, which also contained space used by the parish and Caritas.

“Two of the priests are OK and one has been transferred to the hospital. An attempt is being made to locate a layman who was with them at the time of the explosion,” the archdiocese said.

The archdiocese identified one of those who died in the explosion as 35-year-old David Santos Muñoz, a parishioner and father of four, who had come to the building “to lend a hand.”

The parish said Fr. Rubén Pérez had undergone an operation for his injuries sustained in the explosion and was in serious condition, but still alive.

The parish made the statement on Twitter, after a Spanish news outlet incorrectly published a story saying the priest had died.

According to CNN, another victim was an 85-year-old woman. Eight other people are reported to have been injured, with two being transported to the hospital.

The archdiocese added that Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, the archbishop of Madrid, had traveled to the scene of the explosion to offer support to members of the parish.

“I pray for the Christian community in these difficult times and I pray for the victims,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Pedimos que recéis por que no haya víctimas. Son los salones y la vivienda de los sacerdotes de la parroquia. Los sacerdotes están atendidos por samur y fuera de peligro. Hay una persona laica que estaba allí que no se la localiza. https://t.co/sXpAnrlZyC

— Virgen de la Paloma ⛪️ (@ParroquiaPaloma) January 20, 2021

Pope Francis sent a telegram Jan. 20, expressing his closeness to the people affected by the Madrid explosion.

Francis “raises prayers to the Lord and commends to his mercy most especially the eternal rest of the victims, as well as the wounded and their families,” the message on behalf of the pope said.

The pope also invoked the intercession of Our Lady of the Almudena, the patroness of Madrid, and gave his apostolic blessing “as a sign of Christian hope in the Risen Lord.”

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, reported that Madrid’s mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, had confirmed that at least two people had died as a result of the explosion.

The mayor added that the building was still burning, but firefighters had not yet extinguished the flames due to the risk of further explosions.

ACI Prensa said that local residents, including members of a nursing home, had sought refuge in neighborhood cafes.

The explosion damaged nearby buildings, shattering glass and showering the street with debris.

This story is developing and was updated with further information at 1:15 p.m. mountain time.

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