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Church launches national bushfire response as Australia is engulfed in ‘unprecedented calamity’

Unprecedented: Sheep are seen as Rural Fire Service crews engage in property protection during wildfires along the Old Hume Highway near the town of Tahmoor, Australia, outside Sydney, Dec. 19, 2019. Wildfires have been burning since August and have destroyed an area comparable to the combined region of the Netherlands and Belgium. (CNS photo/Dean Lewins, AAP via Reuters) See AUSTRALIA-FIRES Jan. 3, 2020.

THE Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has launched a national Church response to deal with the unprecedented scale of the bushfire crisis.

“The efforts of firefighters have been heroic. The resilience of the communities affected has been extraordinary,” ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said.

“This has been Australia at its best … but we need more than words. Expressions of solidarity are important, but they are not enough.”

The bishops have announced a five-pronged response to include:

  • A national network connecting people affected by the bushfires with people who can help with tasks such as preparing meals, clearing properties, rebuilding communities, as well as pastoral and counselling support.
  • Collaboration with key national agencies like Catholic Health Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, the National Catholic Education Commission and the St Vincent de Paul Society to ensure as effective a response as possible from the wider Catholic community.
  • Co-operating with Catholic Religious Australia and religious institutes and their ministries.
  • Parishes across the country taking up a special collection at Masses on the Australia Day weekend, with all funds to be donated to Vinnies’ bushfire appeal.
  • The distribution of special prayers and other resources for use in parishes, families and other Catholic communities.

As well as donations at Masses on Australia Day weekend, people are encouraged to support the immediate response and the ongoing work of Vinnies by donating online.

“Our experts on the ground – from agencies like Vinnies, CatholicCare and Centacare, in parishes and other Catholic communities, including Catholic hospitals and aged-care providers – know this will be a long-term process to help people and whole towns rebuild,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“With broad and deep roots across the nation, the Church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery.

“Facing this exceptional crisis, we renew our 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.

“A genuinely Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action.”

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