Bishop Bransfield blesses congregation after Mass for miners killed in West Virginia: Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., blesses the congregation after celebrating an April 6 Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Whitesville, W.Va., for the coal miners who were killed April 5. At least 25 coal miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., in what was the deadliest U.S. mining disaster since 1984. (CNS photo/Chris Keane, Reuters)

WHEELING, W.Va. –– Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston called for prayers for the miners and their families a day after an explosion at a mine in Montcoal that killed 25 miners and left two hospitalized and four others missing.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and all of us in West Virginia are in shock,” Bishop Bransfield said in a statement April 6. “For the hard-working people of this state, this is unfortunately another in a long history of mining tragedies here at home and a stark reminder of the dangers those in mining face each day.

“Our faith is in Jesus Christ, whose resurrection we just celebrated this weekend,” he continued. “May our faith in the risen Lord support the families and communities affected by this tragedy. May our God watch over and comfort them.”

Bishop Bransfield planned to celebrate Mass later in the day at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Whitesville, near the disaster site.

The explosion occurred at Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine the afternoon of April 5.

Hoy Murphy, public information officer for the state’s Mining, Health, Safety and Training Office, said that rescue efforts were halted early April 6 because of poisonous methane gas in the mine.

“Rescue teams went in this morning,” Murphy said, “but the methane levels got so bad they had to be pulled back out.”

Murphy said that rescuers were planning to drill into the sides of the mine to vent the gas so that rescue efforts could resume.

Like Bishop Bransfield, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin also asked for prayers for those affected by the tragedy.

“This is devastating news and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the miners who have died,” Manchin said. “We are offering everything we can to assist those families at this time. … We are all working diligently together and I ask that everyone pray for the miners, their families and our rescue teams.”

The tragedy in Montcoal comes just over four years after the Sago Mine disaster in Upshur County in January 2006 in which 13 miners were killed and one survived.