02/01/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 04/02/2014 05:59 EDT

L'Isle-Verte to honour victims of fire with commemorative mass

Almost 1,000 people will pack a church in L’Isle-Verte, Que., Saturday morning for a commemorative mass to remember the 24 people who died, and eight who are still missing after a fire burned down a seniors residence.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church has been closed to the public while about 50 volunteers from L’Isle-Verte and neighbouring towns prepare for the Roman Catholic ceremony.

Political leaders such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois will attend the service, along with security officers from the Quebec provincial police and RCMP.

L’Isle-Verte’s Mayor Ursule Thériault said she plans to take advantage of Harper’s presence to ask for help from the federal government.

“All types of aid for this catastrophe will be welcome,” Thériault said.

Ceremony to be broadcast

Parish priest Gilles Frigon said the ceremony will be broadcast so that everyone can grieve.

“To have this mass open to the province and to the country is very good — good for us and also very good for those who are offering us their sympathies,” Frigon said.

Messages of condolences, as well as a board with pictures of the victims, will be displayed in the church — a way for people in the community to deal with their pain, said one health-care worker.

“We have many people who are coming to see us.… People are willing to cry, tell us their stories, and look for help,” said Pierre-Paul Malenfant, a health and social services co-ordinator at the Bas Saint-Laurent Health Agency.

Media coverage of Saturday's mass will be limited out of respect for the families involved, organizers said. Radio-Canada will transmit video and audio of the mass, sharing with other media.

So far, 24 people have been confirmed dead, and eight people are still considered missing.

Police said the search was suspended on Friday until they get a warrant, after investigators combing through the site found clues they believe could indicate the spot where the fire may have started.