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Three of Pope Francis' Family Members Die in Argentina Car Crash

"The Pope has been informed and he is painfully sorry," a spokesman for the pontiff said. "He asks for everyone who share his grief to pray with him".

ROME - Pope Francis was grieving the loss of three family members on Tuesday following a traffic accident in Argentina. A Vatican spokesman confirmed to NBC News that the pope's niece and two great-nephews had died. Father Federico Lombardi said "the pope has been informed and he is painfully sorry," adding that the pontiff had asked for prayers.

Police in Cordoba told NBC News that a call came in just after midnight about an accident involving a cargo truck and a Chevy Spin. The Chevy driver - Francis' 35-year-old nephew, Emanuel Bergoglio - was in intensive care in an induced coma after suffering a variety of injuries including liver trauma and a fractured femur, according to police. Bergoglio's wife, 36-year-old Carmona Valeria, and their eight-month-old son Jose died at the scene. Bergoglio's two-year-old, Antonio, later died at the hospital, police added. The news - which was first reported by Agence France-Presse - came a day after the 77-year-old pope suggest he could one day follow in Benedict XVI's footsteps and resign the papacy and joked that he might die soon. When asked about his immense popularity on Monday, Francis replied: "This will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father."

The year in pope culture

March 12, 201401:09

In-Depth

- Claudio Lavanga and Victoria Moll-Ramirez