3 January 2020
With acrid smoke hanging in the air across the region these last few days, we have all had a strong reminder of the bushfires that have affected so many areas of South-East Australia this last week, including a number of communities in our own diocese. There is a deep concern for those who have died, and those who have lost loved ones or property.
We can be very grateful for the heroic efforts by fire fighters and other emergency personnel, and the impressive coordination of evacuations and warning messages. While the cooler weather has provided some respite in the last couple of days, the fires are continuing to burn, and it is anticipated that there will be significant threats again in the coming days.
The Australian bishops have issued a statement responding to the bushfire crisis, which announces that the bishops are coordinating a national appeal for the Australia Day weekend, with all funds raised being donated to the St Vincent de Paul bushfire appeal. Many people have enquired about ways they can assist practically, and I am confident that there will be a generous response at special collections for this appeal, which will be held during Masses on the Australia Day weekend. This concrete response can complement the work already taking place on the ground, led by governments and first responders, and augmented by faith communities and other groups. I welcome and encourage the generous offers of assistance from so many people for those who have been affected and who have been forced to evacuate.
We all remember the great suffering of the Black Saturday fires, and know well that the effects of such trauma will be felt for many months, and even years to come. Our support of the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal ensures that our brothers and sisters have assistance in rebuilding their lives after the devastation of these fires.
Alongside these immediate responses, I urge political and community leaders to continue efforts to identify and respond to the underlying causes that have contributed to the heightened risks we are facing this summer.
I am grateful for the many efforts that have been made around our diocese to ensure up to date information is available, to provide prayer resources for our parishes and immediate support for those in the bushfire areas.
We pray especially for those who lost their lives, and for the safe recovery of people who are missing. Let us continue to pray for those affected by the fires, for firefighters and emergency personnel, and for our political leaders.