Australian Catholics seek prayers as fires continue in four states

As some of the worst wildfires in Australian history rage across four states, thousands of people in affected areas in New South Wales and Victoria continue to be evacuated to safety.

Jan 10, 2020

By David Ryan, Jordan Grantham
As some of the worst wildfires in Australian history rage across four states, thousands of people in affected areas in New South Wales and Victoria continue to be evacuated to safety.

Soaring temperatures, often higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and a protracted drought have contributed to an unprecedented national emergency which, by Christmas, had already seen more than 14.5 million acres of forest and rural land burned.

Amid conditions regularly described as catastrophic, fires have continued to rage in hundreds of locations in Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria states for months.

Bishop Shane Mackinlay of Diocese of Sandhurst expressed concern about “the impact that fires have already had on communities and by the anxiety that the threat of fire is causing”.

In a statement Jan 3, he urged “political and community leaders to continue efforts to identify and respond to the underlying causes that have contributed to the heightened risks we are facing this summer, (and) we pray for those who lost their lives, and for the safe recovery of people who are missing.”

The fires have been burning since August and have destroyed an area comparable to the combined region of the Netherlands and Belgium.

By Jan 3, thousands of people were given less than 48 hours to evacuate fire-ravaged coastal communities in New South Wales. With the heat forecast for 111 degrees Fahrenheit Jan. 4, the fires were expected to worsen.

More than 2,500 buildings have been razed and at least 20 people — 16 from New South Wales, two from Victoria and two from South Australia — have died. Officials fear the toll could rise steeply, with Victorian emergency services saying 28 people are missing in the state.

Smoke clouds, which can be seen from space, have reached New Zealand, nearly 2,500 miles away across the Tasman Sea.

The Gippsland region in Victoria’s east has seen convoys of people escorted by police and emergency services personnel evacuating from towns such as Corryong and Walwa in Victoria’s Alpine country.

“We have a very deep faith,” said Marie Burton Marie Burton, a parishioner of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, in the New South Wales Diocese of Wagga, lives on a farm in Jingellic, near the border with Victoria border.

In late December and early January, Jingellic was surrounded by fire twice.. “I put a scapular on the door and sprinkled the house with holy water, and we have statues in our home, including the Infant of Prague, and so I prayed — we prayed very hard, and asked other people to pray.

“All of these people are amazing people, with an amazing Catholic faith, and we know God will protect them,” she said. “Every time we hear good news, we’re overjoyed that these people haven’t lost their homes. There is just miracle after miracle happening.”

But where is the leadership of the Australian politicians during this national crisis?

Hugh Rimington, a leading broadcaster and speaking for many wrote, “Australia is a burning nation led by cowards,” Another Australian, Richard Flanagan wrote in New York Times, complementing Rimington by stating that he might have added “idiots,” after Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack blamed the fires on exploding horse manure.

In an apocalyptic manner Flanagan concluded “Such are those who would open the gates of hell and lead a nation to commit climate suicide.”

(This article first appeared on NCRonline.org, the Website of National Catholic Reporter, and is being used with permission)

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