Australian bishops ask for Catholic response to fires

We’ve seen the photos and heard of the apocalyptic bushfires that have consumed Australia with no end in sight. The devastation has been vast—destroying homes and businesses and taking the lives of at least 25 people and an enormous amount of cattle and wildlife.

“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety with that kind of environment and with the threat of fires that can pop up at any time and with the news being so prevalent about the destruction and the devastation that these fires cause, there’s a lot of fear and anxiety that’s just caused anguish for families all over the country,” explained Peter Bierer, Coordinator for the Catholic Office of Youth and Young Adults in the Archdiocese of Adelaide, Australia.

Bierer spoke of a family member whose home came dangerously close to one of the bushfires, causing him to stay up all night with evacuation plans in place in case the wind changed directions and he had to make a quick evacuation. “Locally, the fires have been few and around the city … where I live, in Adelaide, the destruction has been less so than it has been out east, but it’s still been terrible for those families and the businesses and the farms and communities that have been laid in its wake,” said Bierer.

Fire level signFor those who live in areas of the world where wildfires are not a common occurrence, it can be hard to imagine the fear and preparation that accompanies these disasters. “It’s a bit harrowing to think about. So a few days ahead of time you’ll get a forecast that the fire danger has increased. They’ve got these levels of fire danger that they send out—it might be severe, or extreme, and the worst is catastrophic. So my family and I, we live in the hills outside of Adelaide, and when the fire danger reaches catastrophic we know that we have to have a plan to get out just in case something goes wrong,” explained Bierer.

It’s been an extremely dry and hot year, creating conditions for fires to rage across the continent. “Whether it’s human made or happens naturally because of spontaneous combustion from the heat or lightening from a storm, it rages devastation in its path because of the dryness of the land. What’s different is it’s across the entire country, this drought that’s happening.”

Australia is just at the beginning of the fire season. With no end in sight for the bushfires, the Australian people and wildlife need our fervent prayers and support. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference made a statement on Tuesday, expressing their horror at the “apocalyptic” fires. They called for a response to the calamity, and encouraged those who are able to support the St. Vincent de Paul ‘Vinnies Bushfire Appeal.’

The statement from Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge said:

“Facing this exceptional crisis, we renew our 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.

A genuinely Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action.”


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