Chilean Church launches campaign for forest fire victims

The bishops of Chile urged local Catholics to participate in a Church campaign to help those affected by forest fires that have swept across the southern part of the country.

“To begin the year with this tragedy that has claimed the life of one person and has caused so many poor families to lose everything they have worked to obtain their whole lives saddens us,” the bishops said in a Jan. 4 statement.

“For this reason, a gesture of solidarity by the entire country is essential, in order to urgently meet the most pressing needs of the moment,” they added.

Chilean media reported that the fires in the Biobio region have scorched nearly 62,000 acres and destroyed 160 homes, leaving more than 600 people homeless.

Fires in the Maule region have burned some 16,000 acres and over 30 homes, with 200 families now without a roof over their heads.

The president of Caritas Chile’s pastoral ministry, Bishop Manuel Camilo Vial, said volunteers have come forward to provide spiritual and psychological assistance to the victims.

“In many areas where the fire literally engulfed everything in its path, the emotional impact on the victims and the volunteers combating the flames was even greater than during the 2010 earthquake,” he said.

“This catastrophe is truly a tragedy for people and for families which we wish to alleviate by bringing assistance, solidarity, care, concern and words of hope and encouragement.”

Father Rodrigo Tupper, the vice president of Caritas Chile’s pastoral ministry, said that contributions made by Chileans will “go immediately to our brothers and sisters and help alleviate the anguish that we all experience with them.”

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