Australia: Catholic community responds to bushfire tragedy

 The Catholic community is responding to the bushfires that have devastated Victoria, says Catholic Social Services executive director Denis Fitzgerald.

"The weekend bushfires, Victoria's worst natural disaster, have caused widespread loss of life and of homes," Mr Fitzgerald said.

"A beacon of hope that has shone out from this tragedy is the way that the Australian community has rallied to offer support: schools, parishes, families have been among those keen to assist, and relief and assistance agencies have been flooded with offers of help.

"The Australian Catholic community has been a significant part of this response. Schools, agencies, parishes, dioceses across the country have been keen to offer assistance. In a number of cases we are already aware of welfare agencies supporting staff in their willingness to make a contribution. Several agencies have also offered assistance by way of skilled personnel to those agencies who are making a direct contribution."

CSSV has compiled a list of actions the Catholic community has undertaken and how people can continue to help in the coming days and weeks.

Within the Catholic community, immediate spiritual assistance and intercession is a priority. Clergy and pastoral assistants in the fire-affected areas continue to be very active, and are receiving support from colleagues from other areas. Moral and spiritual support for those affected, and also for their friends and relatives who live in other areas, is a top priority. Grief and worry are widely spread throughout Victoria.
The initial front line material assistance to affected families and communities is being provided by the Red Cross and Salvation Army, supported by Commonwealth and Victorian Government funding.

The St Vincent de Paul Society is active in all areas affected by the fires. Their emergency recovery structure is providing immediate assistance, and assessing needs for recovery. They have a presence in each parish, and information is being gathered at that level, to ensure effective support for the recovery phase. Funds are currently required. You can donate to SVDP's bushfire appeal on their website:; by phone: 13 18 12; or at any Vinnies store.

Blood is also needed. Although the Red Cross Blood Service is not presently calling for emergency donations, they are encouraging all Victorians who want to assist in this way. Call 13 14 95.

* Pope Benedict XVI has expressed deep sadness over the Victorian bushfires. This was conveyed in a message from the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to the Governor General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce.

The message said: "Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic consequences of recent fires in the State of Victoria, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI assured all affected of his closeness in prayer.

"The Holy Father commends the deceased to the loving mercy of Almighty God, and upon their grieving families, and all those suffering from loss of property and destruction of land, he invokes divine strength and consolation.

"His Holiness likewise prays for all involved in providing assistance to the victims of this disaster, encouraging them in their efforts to bring relief and support."

Source: Archdiocese of Melbourne/VIS

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