CATHOLIC parishes across Australia are preparing to dig deep with special bushfire collections at Masses over the Australia Day weekend.
The national Church action is in support of the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal, and to aid efforts connecting people in need with people who can help.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge announced the collection on January 7, saying: “We need more than words. Expressions of solidarity are important, but they are not enough”.
“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 co-ordinate what is happening locally,” he said.
The national Catholic response will include a collaboration of agencies like Catholic Health Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, the National Catholic Education Commission and the St Vincent de Paul Society.
In one of Victoria’s fire-ravaged regions, Sandhurst Bishop Shane Mackinlay welcomed the generosity already shown.
He praised the heroic efforts by all emergency services and was concerned for those who had died and others who had lost property.
Support and prayers for bushfire-hit communities have come from across the world.
“We pray in solidarity with you for those who have lost their lives and livelihoods and we pray for those whose homes and lives are still threatened,” president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said.
“We pray for the heroic firefighters and first responders and for all those working to provide relief and comfort to victims,” he wrote.
“May God in his mercy be near to all of you, and may he bring a swift end to these terrible fires and begin healing the wounds and restoring what has been lost.
“On behalf of my brother bishops, I entrust you and your people to the tender care of Our Blessed Mother Mary and I pray that our good God may grant you peace.”