Church of missing Minn. couple prays; more bodies pulled from waterby Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Members of a Twin Cities Catholic church are praying for good news about their fellow parishioners who are still missing after the cruise ship Costa Concordia capsized off the west coast of Italy late Friday.
Meantime, more bodies were pulled out of the crippled ship on Tuesday, moving the death toll to 11, and a shocking audio emerged in which the ship's captain was heard making excuses as the Italian coast guard repeatedly ordered him to return and oversee the ship's evacuation.
Jerry and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake are the only remaining Americans yet to be located amidst the wreckage.
The Heils have attended services at the Church of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake for nearly four decades. Larry Erickson, the church's director of operations, said the Heils are the focus of prayers at daily mass, as well as private prayers at the church's chapel, which is open round the clock.
"Everybody's sad. There's shock," he said. "But I think there is a strong undertone of hope -- hope without expectation. But everyone's praying, and asking the good Lord for whatever help can be given."
The Heils, who are both around 70 years old and retired, are involved in teaching adults and children about Catholicism, as well as several other church activities, Erickson said.
Some parishioners are currently organizing a more formal prayer gathering in honor of the missing couple, he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Italian naval divers exploded holes in the hull of the grounded cruise ship, trying to speed up the search for the missing while seas were still calm. Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TV 24 the holes would help divers enter the wreck more easily.
Prosecutors are preparing to question the captain of the ship, who is accused of causing the wreck that left at least six dead and abandoning the Costa Concordia before all 4,200 people onboard were safely evacuated after the vessel capsized:
In White Bear Lake, Erickson said that the church will have an open prayer service at 7 p.m. that will last about an hour. It's "for everybody, anybody to come in," Erickson said.
The U.S. Embassy in Italy is using its Facebook page to post updates about the Hiel's whereabouts.
On Tuesday, all of the bodies extracted by divers were adults wearing life jackets. They were taken from the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro. He said they were thought to have been passengers.
Prior to that discovery, the coast guard had raised the number of missing to 25 passengers and four crew. Italian officials gave the breakdown as 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)