The Catholic Church in Australia wants to respond to the bushfire disaster with a national initiative. Brisbane archbishop advocates for network to help rebuild – including pastoral care.
"We have all seen the apocalyptic images, even if we are not in the hardest-hit areas," said a statement released Tuesday by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the bishops’ conference. Lives, houses and towns were destroyed, smoke shrouded large parts of the country, he said. "And there is no end in sight to the horror that confronts us with our powerlessness before the devastating force of nature," the Archbishop of Brisbane said.
Thanks to firefighters
At the same time, he praised the firefighters and the affected communities. "This has been Australia at its best, and we all stand with those who have been most affected and those who are putting their lives on the line to fight the fires."
But it takes more than words. "Expressions of solidarity are important, but not enough." Bishops are aware of huge nationwide effort, he said. Among them are many Catholic, ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, according to the archbishop. Typically, bishops respond to such challenges at the parish or diocesan level, but the magnitude of this crisis requires a national response by the entire church to complement and coordinate what is happening on the ground, he said.
Linking pastoral care and reconstruction
Specifically, the bishops’ conference proposes the creation of a national network linking those affected by the fires with potential helpers for day-to-day care, house clearance and rebuilding, and pastoral care and counseling. Further, it is a matter of working with nationwide Catholic organizations and religious congregations. Already over the weekend, a collection for the victims of the bushfires was held at all church services.
There should also be special prayer initiatives, according to the Bishops’ Conference. "A truly Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer that inspires concrete and compassionate action," Coleridge explained.
Financial support from state and church
Already on Monday, the state and church in Australia had announced financial aid for the victims of the bushfires. According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, for example, an authority will be created to coordinate the reconstruction of the devastated regions with an initial budget of the equivalent of 1.24 billion euros. The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn announced emergency aid of the equivalent of 1.865 Euro for affected families to.
Several million hectares of land have gone up in flames in Australia since October. More than 1.000 houses were destroyed, at least 25 people lost their lives. Experts say the number of dead animals is in the hundreds of thousands.