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.
A Prayer of Faith, Hope and Love for All Affected by the Australian Bush Fires
Fr James B Lyons
God of all creation
You revealed yourself to Moses in a burning bush and
it was round a fire on the beach that Peter confirmed his love for Jesus.
Now fire has devastated whole communities in Australia.
Lives have been lost, dreams destroyed, hopes reduced to ashes.
It is hard to see your presence in this inferno
and love seems absent from the horror and terror in the bush.
Facing the agony of loss, help us hold on to faith;
In the path of nature’s fury, may we not lose sight
of the strength of the human spirit
in the heroism of firefighters and neighbours,
rescue and medical teams.
God of creation,
bring comfort and reassurance to those
who must now rebuild their lives,
and welcome into your eternal embrace
the victims of this horrific tragedy.
Help us all to understand your call
to work in partnership with nature and
to respect the rhythm of life in the earth.
In our togetherness, healed of division,
may we return to find your presence
in the burning bush
and free our hearts to burn
with the fire of your love.
Published in WelCom February 2020