WelCom February 2020
The Australian Bishops’ Conference released a statement on 7 January, in which they asked for solidarity and prayers for those affected by the raging bush fires in Australia. They also pointed out that while ‘the bishops typically respond to challenges at a parish or diocesan level, the scale of this crisis requires a national response from the whole Church to complement and coordinate what is happening locally’.
They put their support behind a donation campaign launched by the St Vincent de Paul Society and said they would collaborate with national health and social services agencies ‘to ensure an effective a response as possible from the wider Catholic community’.
‘With broad and deep roots across the nation, the Church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery’, the bishops said, renewing their call ‘for insistent prayer for those stricken by drought and fire, for those who have lost their lives in the fires and their families, for rain to quench the parched land and extinguish the fires, and for urgent action to care for our common home in order to prevent such calamities in the future.’
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane commended the ‘heroic’ efforts of firefighters, the ‘resilience’ of communities and acknowledged the lives lost and properties destroyed.
While noting the huge amount being done around the nation, coordinated by governments and first responders, local faith communities and other groups, Archbishop Coleridge said that ‘the scale of this crisis requires a national response from the whole Church to complement and coordinate what is happening locally.’
As part of that response, the bishops said parishes would take up a special collection at Masses on Sunday 26 January, Australia Day weekend, and will ‘work to connect individuals, families and communities in need with people who are able to provide various types of support’.
The bishops said they would be working with key partners, including national Catholic organisations and religious institutes, to coordinate the most effective response possible from the wider Catholic community.
Archbishop Coleridge also reiterated the importance of prayer at this time of crisis. ‘A genuine Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action’, he said.
Pope offers prayers
At a General Audience on 8 January, Pope Francis called for prayers for Australia as it battled massive bushfires. Pope Francis asked everyone ‘to pray to the Lord to help the people of Australia in the difficult time’. During his annual address to the Diplomatic Corps the following day, he said, ‘I am close to the Australian people’ and assured them, especially the victims and all those in the areas devastated by the huge wildfires, of his closeness and prayers.