WHITESVILLE, W.Va. -- The Rev. Michael Bransfield, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, remembers leading a mass in Philippi after the Sago Mine disaster in 2006.
On Tuesday night, he was leading an all-too-familiar mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Whitesville, a day after an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County killed at least 25 miners.
"This is devastating because it's not expected," Bransfield said. "To imagine [the miners'] suffering is a further burden on our people."
He called for an improvement in monitoring and safety conditions in mines.
"Many of them [the miners] spent a good deal of time in those mines because they were working to provide for someone else," he said. "We know that it is a very dangerous profession."
After Christians celebrated a beautiful Easter Sunday in West Virginia, Monday's explosion marked an abrupt swing back to tragedy, he said.
He compared the grieving families to Mary Magdalene weeping at Christ's tomb.
"We can imagine what her heart was like, how heavy it was," he said.