QUEENSLAND Catholics have been brought together in solidarity as 75 per cent of the state faces a prolonged recovery from the devastation of some of the worst flooding in decades.
Farms, towns and cities from the state’s Central Highlands, through the Darling Downs, to the South East including the major centres of Brisbane and Ipswich are facing massive clean-up and damage bills that will cost billions of dollars.
Twenty people have died,50 are still missing, and tens of thousands are homeless in the aftermath of the flood crisis that has engulfed Queensland in the past month.
Despite the extent of the crisis, the general consensus of most victims is a humble stoicism that “there are others out there worse off”.
Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby, Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan and Toowoomba Bishop William Morris said support and prayers had come from around the world.
Bishop Heenan, whose diocese was one of the first affected, said support was received from Pope Benedict XVI.
“The Apostolic Nuncio to Australia (Archbishop Guisseppe Lazzarotto) contacted us to say the Pope was concerned by the floods and was donating $US50,000 to assist flood recovery,” Bishop Heenan said.
He said the money was entrusted through the Rockhampton diocese to the St Vincent de Paul statewide appeal.
“Cardinal George Pell (of Sydney) also offered a similar amount.”
Pope Benedict XVI also recalled in prayer the victims of floods in Australia, Brazil, the Philippines and Sri Lanka after his midday Angelus on January 16.
“I would like to assure a special remembrance in prayer the people of Australia, Brazil, The Philippines and Sri Lanka, who have recently been devastated by floods.”
“May the Lord receive the souls of the dead, give strength to the evacuees and help those who are working to alleviate the suffering and grief.”
Archbishop John Bathersby has sent a letter through the Australia bishops thanking the people of Australia for their support and prayerful sympathy.
He said some people had lost their lives and large numbers had lost their loved ones as well as houses possessions and livelihoods.
“The prayers and support from a multitude of people in Australia have comforted thousands of people in Queensland who need to make a fresh start in their lives.”
Archbishop Bathersby said Catholic parishes and agencies throughout Queensland have and would continue to offer their physical and prayerful support to those affected by the disaster.
“They join with millions of people throughout Australia and overseas who have offered their support to the victims of this flood event,” he said.
“Today (Monday January 17) a special meeting was held of the main agencies of the archdiocese (including education, welfare and parish services) to plan the Church’s central response to the recovery in South East Queensland, with similar planning occurring in other dioceses throughout Queensland.
“We are ensuring that we are doing everything we can to assist.”
Bishop Heenan said it would take months for his parishioners to get back on their feet.
“Fortunately our schools are okay and we are so lucky we had no loss of life and injury,” he said.
Toowoomba Bishop William Morris estimates around 50 percent of his 488,000 square kilometre diocese was affected in some way by the floods.
Bishop Morris who travelled to Toowoomba from Brisbane meetings on Monday, January 10 was fortunate not to be caught up in the destructive ‘inland tsunami’ that claimed the lives of several resident.
“The community is very sad and stunned by the event and by the loss of life,” he said.