Source: DSJ, Vatican News
As dozens of massive wildfires blaze across the US state of California,Bishop Oscar Cantú in the Diocese of San Jose, calls for prayers for affected families, firefighters, and first responders.
Northern and Central California are suffering under the acrid smoke and threatening flames of over two dozen active wildfires. Two of those are the second and third largest wildfires ever recorded in the US state's history. Both are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area, where over 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
At least seven people have lost their lives over the past week, which has seen some 650 different fires. Around 700 homes and businesses have been destroyed. Firefighters from across the US are joining in battling the blazes. Fire engines and crews have arrived from Texas, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Utah.
President Trump is sending federal funds to help Californians in the seven counties affected by the fires, declaring a major disaster on Saturday.
It is believed that lightning strikes from a series of thunderstorms ignited most of the wildfires in forests that have become very dry in the ongoing heatwave.
As the flames lick at many doors, Bishop Oscar Cantú has asked everyone to unite in prayer for the people of California. One fire, known as the SCU Lightning Complex, is threatening parts of Bishop Cantú's diocese, and is the third-largest wildfire on record. It has burned 339,000 acres, and was only 10% contained as of Sunday.
In a statement, Bishop Oscar praised firefighters and first responders for "braving high heat and unpredictable firestorms across difficult terrain, often at great personal sacrifice, to defend lives and property."
"The toxic smoke chokes our air and our lungs," he said.
But, said Bishop Cantú, Californians are not alone. "God is with us. He is our refuge and strength, especially in moments of darkness. His love for us is fiercer than any fire, stronger than any disease, steadier than the unknown."
He asked all Catholics to pray for affected families and those working to battle the blazes. "Let us shine the light of His love by helping those who may need food, shelter, or a compassionate ear," he said.
Bishop Cantú noted that some of the diocese's schools and parishes lie close to where the fires are burning.
They are working to help affected parishioners in whatever way possible, he said.
"Let us never forget," said Bishop Cantú, "that with Jesus Christ, all things are possible."
The full text of Bishop Cantú's letter follows:
August 21, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I want to invite you to join with me in prayer for the people of California as we continue to face the effects of the heatwave and the devastating wildfires that have plagued us in recent days.
First responders are braving high heat and unpredictable firestorms across difficult terrain, often at great personal sacrifice, to defend lives and property. Families are being evacuated, even rescued, from fires invading their neighborhoods and menacing their homes, often not knowing where it might be safe to go amid the pandemic. The toxic smoke chokes our air and our lungs.
But we are not alone: God is with us. He is our refuge and strength, especially in moments of darkness. His love for us is fiercer than any fire, stronger than any disease, steadier than the unknown. Let us pray that He might safeguard our families, neighbors, and the most vulnerable among us; and that He might guide and protect our firefighters, first responders, and all who work tirelessly to alleviate these disasters. Let us shine the light of His love by helping those who may need food, shelter, or a compassionate ear. Let us never forget that with Jesus Christ, all things are possible.
Some of our parishes and schools are near the evacuation zones and are trying to help their affected parishioners. I ask for your prayers for them. Also, as the air quality in our area fluctuates in the coming days, please stay in touch with your local parish for any changes in Mass schedules. As we pray for the people of our Diocese of San José and beyond, be assured of my own prayers for you, your families, and your life of faith in these difficult days.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop of San Jose
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