Bishops pray for victims of Easter storms

EVgGmTXXgAAyQSc A crucifix outside a Tennessee church after storms over Easter, 2020. | Office of Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

The bishops of the United States have offered their prayers in solidarity with the victims of extreme weather over the Easter weekend. At least 30 people were killed due to severe weather across the southern U.S. April 12 and 13. 

"This Easter Monday began with the sad news that storms swept across multiple states in the South overnight, killing at least 19 people [at the time of this statement] across Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina," said a statement co-signed by USCCB President Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who leads the conference's domestic justice and human development committee.

Storms also caused damage in Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Tennessee. On Monday evening, the death toll from the storms was revised to "more than 30."  Recovery efforts are ongoing. 

The archbishops said Monday that "we must reach out and offer assistance to those affected, especially those who are grieving the loss of loved ones." They acknowledged that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is harder than normal, but still essential. 

"We pray for those who are suffering, for those who have died, and for the first responders who are courageously offering help," said the archbishops. "We also pray for those who remain in the path of these storms and for their safety and well-being." 

The archbishops reflected on Monday's Gospel, saying that the Lord told Mary Magdalene and the other woman at the tomb to not be afraid, and to go and tell the disciples that they had seen the risen Christ. 

Hope, said the archbishops, was described in the letter to the Hebrews as "an anchor of the soul, sure and firm." 

"In the midst of disasters from weather and illness, we cling to this hope, that God can redeem our suffering and loss, that God is present to us even now, and that the Lord has conquered death for all time, inviting us to see Him face to face in eternal life," they said. 

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), who represents a district that was hard hit by the storms, said he was "heartbroken" by the damage, and that he found it "heart wrenching to see." 

Fleischmann told CNA in a statement that faith is a source of comfort in these increasingly troubling times.

"Even in our darkest moments faith will always remain a source of strength and hope," said Fleischmann. "As our nation deals with the adversity brought on by COVID-19, my community now has the added challenge of recovery from deadly tornadoes. I am praying for the victims and my staff and I stand ready to help our community rebuild."

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