Pope Francis sent a letter to Chile voicing his nearness to everyone suffering from the devastating effects of more than 100 wildfires, which have ravaged areas of the country for over a week now.
The letter, sent on behalf of the Holy Father by Secretary of State
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to the president of the Chile bishops'
conference, conveys Francis' condolences for the deceased and their
families in “this beloved country.”
Pope Francis “offers condolences for the eternal rest of the
deceased,” the Jan. 23 letter states, asking Bishop Santiago Silva
Retamales “to transmit to the families of the victims his heartfelt
condolence and express his spiritual closeness to the wounded and to
those who suffer the consequences of this catastrophe.”
The government of Chile has declared a state of emergency as they
fight blazes which have destroyed homes, farmland, and livestock in the
central and southern regions of Chile.
Six people have died in the
fires: two policemen and four firefighters, the Washington Post reports.
No civilians have been killed, but many have had to evacuate as their
farms and vineyards, in many cases their only means of livelihood, are
destroyed. High temperatures and a prolonged drought has contributed to
the fires, which have so far ruined around 300,000 acres of forest land.
Pope Francis “raises prayers for the Lord to grant strength and
comfort to those affected by the outbreaks and inspire in all sentiments
of solidarity,” the letter continued, “so that in these difficult times
they collaborate effectively, with generosity and charity, to alleviate
pain and to overcome adversity, while imparting to them the comforting
President Michelle Bachelet said “Chile is living the greatest forest
disaster in our history,” adding later that the country has
“practically exhausted its capacity to fight the blazes,” the BBC
The U.S. is sending experts and funds to help replace equipment at
Chile’s national forestry agency. Bachelet has also asked Brazil,
Canada, Mexico, Peru, Spain and France for assistance in providing
planes and helicopters to tackle the fires.
The town of Pumanque in the south-central region of O'Higgins is one
of the worst hit, residents having lost most of their possessions and
Fr. Cristián Salazar, a priest of Pumanque, has organized the
delivery of boxes of merchandise in the parish for the most urgent
situations, according to a press release of the Chile bishops’
Archbishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of the Diocese of Rancagua has
asked for gestures of solidarity with those in the affected regions
through the donation of things like construction materials, housewares,
food, and aid for firefighters, such as water, cereal bars and
All parishes in the diocese will also hold a second collection at Mass to aid those affected.
“The Bishop of Rancagua asks us to pray for families who have
suffered material losses and for those who are fighting the fire, to
implore the mercy of God in the difficult situation they are living. He
appeals to the generosity of each to those who need it so much,” the
press release states.