National News

Pope Francis Expresses His Solidarity With California Wildfire Victims

Residents embrace near the remains of destroyed homes Oct. 9 after wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif. A series of deadly Northern California wildfires has killed at least 17 people, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings, including a section of Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa. (Photo: Catholic News Service/John G. Mabanglo, EPA) 

By Christopher White
The Tablet National Correspondent

Pope Francis has expressed his prayers and “heartfelt solidarity” to victims of the California wildfires. In a telegram sent on Oct. 13 to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles via Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope mourned “the tragic loss of life and the destruction of property,” resulting from the fires.

As of Friday, Oct. 13, there have been at least 31 reported deaths from wildfire related injuries. Fires have consumed Northern California for the past week with an estimated 3,500 structures and almost 200,000 acres destroyed.

The Nuns Fire in Kenwood, Calif., is seen Oct. 10. According to Cal Fire, the wildfire has burned 5,000 acres and threatens 5,000 structures. (Photo: Catholic News Service/Stephen Lam, Reuters) 

“His Holiness offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this tragedy. To all he sends his blessing,” said the telegram sent by Cardinal Parolin.

Earlier this week, Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, said his diocese was in “an ongoing state of uncertainty.”

“The sense of great helplessness is palpable,” he wrote. “When people ask how they can help I answer that I really do not know. I do know that prayers are the greatest source of solace and help.”

The current wildfires are considered among the deadliest in the state’s history. The fires were first reported on Sunday, Oct. 8, and by the next day had turned into a full-fledged disaster zone. Thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses have been destroyed as firefighters work against conditions of severe drought to battle the storms.

“We acknowledge the sense of loss and suffering experienced by those who have lost their homes, or businesses, or places of employment,” said Bishop Vasa in a statement earlier this week.

“We pray that you do not lose hope, nor the sense of God’s presence and ultimate goodness. You must know that the hearts of the entire community, though it can neither feel what you feel, nor undo the loss, do go out to you.”