As fires throughout parts of Australia continue to worsen, the Archbishop of Melbourne called for prayers and encouraged Catholics to donate to those in need.
“On this first weekend of the New Year, we should be focusing on the joy of families, friends and holidays,” said Archbishop Peter Comensoli in a statement this weekend.
“Instead for so many, the beginning of 2020 has already been marked with loss, destruction, separation and deep sadness; and it would seem there is more to come.”
Hundreds of fires are raging throughout Australia, the worst fire season in the country’s history, according to officials. Bushfires have already scorched 12 million acres of land, more than double the acreage burned in the Amazon earlier this year. At least 19 lives have been claimed by the fires in the last few months.
The most devastated states are those of Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), and South Australia, where evacuations are taking place. On Friday, the Australian Navy helped evacuate about 1,100 people from Mallacoota, a town in coastal Victoria.
Officials said weather conditions are making it hard to fight the fires, which are expected to worsen in coming days.
According to Australia’s 9 News, eight deaths have occurred in NSW South Coast during this week alone. The media also reported that two people had died in Victoria, where 28 people are still missing. In South Australia, nearly 6000 stock animals have died, but the number is expected to rise.
Archbishop Comensoli applauded the efforts of volunteers who have taken time away from the holidays to help those in need. He also said the archdiocese has offered its support to the government.
“Into these communities too, have come hundreds of volunteers and service organisations who have given up their own family celebrations, and placed their lives on the line to bring help, support and relief where possible. There is something truly remarkable, and exceptionally humbling, about the spirit of our shared humanity that gives its all without question,” he said.
“Please know that the Archdiocese has reached out to Government and State services and offered its full support for what may be required. Some of our main support areas such as CatholicCare, Catholic Education Melbourne and St Vincent de Paul are looking to see what can be put in place.”
The archbishop recalled the heartache of the Black Saturday bushfires, which caused 174 fatalities in 2009, and encouraged Catholics to make donations to the St Vincent de Paul Bushfire Appeal. The appeal will help victims access food and clothing. It will also cover bills and help refer people to emotional support programs.
“I strongly encourage you now to direct any donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Bushfire Appeal to ensure that our brothers and sisters have a chance to rebuild their lives after such devastation. Your Parishes may look to direct specific collections this way,” he said.