BY Ryan McDougall | January 10 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

bushfires

Pope’s call for prayers as Australian wildfires rage on

'No end in sight' for Australia's wildfires, as Church responds to disaster.

Pope Francis has called for prayers for Australia, which is currently being ravaged by massive wildfires.

At his general audience on Wednesday January 8, the Holy Father asked Catholics ‘to pray to the Lord to help the people [of Australia] in this difficult time’ as fires continue to rage across the nation.

The Pope told Australian pilgrims his is ‘close to the Australian people.’

As the SCO went to press, over 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land was destroyed by bushfires and over 20 people have been killed in the blazes.

Australian authorities warned citizens of the nation on Wednesday to prepare for further evacuations as temperatures in the southeast of the country began to rise after a cool spell—meaning fires are likely to be strengthened. High winds have also allowed the fires to spread more easily and there is little rain forecasted.

 

Containment

Firefighters have used the cooler spell to strengthen containment of existing fires and the military have been providing supplies to the thousands made homeless as a result of the blazes.

The fires began in the Queensland and New South Wales states in September 2019, following a serious drought. It is estimated there are over 100 ongoing wildfires raging throughout the country.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference this week told of the ‘unprecedented’ catastrophe facing the country as the fires continue, with ‘no end in sight.’

The archbishop announced Australian parishes are to hold collections on Australia Day (Sunday January 26) and that the Australian Bishops is preparing a national response to the fires.

 

Catholic response

Like Pope Francis, the archbishop explained that ‘a genuine Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action,’ adding that ‘with broad and deep roots across the nation, the Church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery.’

The Australian Bishops Conference’s response will include the facilitation of a national network connecting those affected by the fires with people who can help rebuild communities, prepare food, clearing properties, as well as provide pastoral and counselling support.

They plan to distribute special prayers and resources to be utilised by parishes and families, and will collaborate with national Church agencies such as Catholic Health Australia and the nation’s Society of St Vincent de Paul to ensure there is an effective response from the wider Catholic community.

Religious institutes in Australia, as well as their ministries, are also to be contacted for further support.

 

Resilience

Crediting those who have battled the fires, Archbishop Coleridge said: “The The efforts of firefighters have been heroic. The resilience of the communities affected has been extraordinary.

“This has been Australia at its best, and we all stand with those who have been most stricken and with those who are putting their lives on the line to fight the fires.

“But we need more than words. Expressions of solidarity are important, but they are not enough.

“The bishops are aware of the huge amount being done around the nation, led by governments and first responders.

“Many local faith communities, including Catholic parishes and organisations, as well as ecumenical and inter-religious coalition, are also making a big contribution.”

The Archbishop explained that while bishops generally respond to crises at a diocesan level, the scale of the fires ‘requires a national response from the whole Church to complement and coordinate what is happening locally.’

 

— ryan@sconews.co.uk

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