After coal mine disaster, West Virginia bishop calls for better miner safety


Following the disastrous explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield has called for more measures to ensure safety for miners. He also reflected upon how Christians should understand the tragedy.

His comments came in a Sunday homily at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, West Virginia. According to excerpts provided by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, he connected the disaster with the Sunday Mass readings about St. Thomas’ doubts about Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.

“In Thomas’ struggle to come to belief in the Resurrection is the experience of every Christian: to believe without having seen,” Bishop Bransfield commented.

While Thomas was allowed to touch Christ, “for us it is more difficult: for, we begin with faith, and faith informs our natural lights to be able to see the wonder that is all around us.”

Turning to the mine explosion, he continued:

“In 2006, we experienced the Sago mine disaster. In 2010, we are now living through the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. Confronted with doubt as experienced by Thomas the apostle it is impossible not to ask what can be done to protect the lives of miners. Can those entrusted with the protection of miners be trusted to fulfill the jobs and enforce the laws?

“Is our technology in the U.S. mines in 2010 equal to the technology that is easily available in other industries? Is it safer to travel in space than to work in a West Virginia mine?” he asked.

“In the 21st Century, there should be a greater span between accidents than just four years.”

Bishop Bransfield said protecting the lives of miners should have at least the same priority as ecological protections.

He then noted Jesus’ words when he appeared to the apostles, “Peace be with you.”

“His greeting calmed their fears and restored their faith,” the bishop explained.

“The presence of the Risen Jesus made a difference in the lives of all in that upper room. We need our faith in the Resurrected Christ as we pray for these 29 miners and their families. We also need to keep the safety of our miners as a priority for government.

“Our country should realize that West Virginia pays too high a price when we turn on our electricity. As one of the greatest suppliers of electricity in our country, we must reflect on what producing this energy truly costs.”

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