Christian leaders have expressed their condolences to Muslims round the world following the death of 717 people in a stampede during the annual Hajj in Mecca. Over 700 people were reported killed and 800 injured last Thursday when on the third of the five day pilgrimage a stampede broke out during the Ramy al-Jamarat, or “stoning of the devil,” in which pilgrims toss rocks at three walls before entering the city of Mecca. Newspaper interviews with survivors have offered various causes for the panic, but all note the combination of large crowds and a confined space contributed to the panic. At the start of his 24 Sept 2015 homily at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Pope Francis said: “I want to express the closeness of the church in the face of the tragedy people suffered in Mecca … In this moment of prayer, I unite and join in prayer with our almighty God and merciful father.” The Church of England published prayers for those “Caught up in Tragedy and Disaster” in response to the disaster. Last week’s death toll was the second largest loss of life from a stampede at the Hajj in recent years. In 1990 1400 pilgrims suffocated in a tunnel in Mina while in 2006, 340 people were killed and hundreds were injured after a stampede during the Ramy al-Jamarat ritual. Hundreds more have been crushed to death during the stoning the devil ritual over the years, with incidents occurring in 2004, 2003, 2001, and 1994.