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Pope Francis is "profoundly saddened" over the deaths of three relatives who were killed in a car crash in Argentina early Tuesday, the Vatican said in a statement.

"The Pope has been informed of the tragic accident in Argentina involving family members, and he is profoundly saddened," the Vatican said in a statement. "He asks all those who share his grief to unite with him in prayer."

The three were killed when a car driven by the pontiff's 38-year-old nephew, Emanuel Bergoglio, rammed the back of a truck loaded with corn that was moving in the same direction on a mountain road near the town of James Craik shortly after midnight, the newspaper Clarin reports.

Killed were Bergoglio's wife, Valeria Carmona, 38; and their two children, 8 months and 2 years. Bergoglio was hospitalized in serious condition.

Emanuel is the son of the pope's late brother, Alberto Bergoglio.

The Vatican statement was issued as the 77-year-old pope, who was born in Argentina, was returning to Rome after a five-day trip to South Korea.

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