United States

God's whisper in the tragedy. Devastating fires in Hawaii

As of August 15, the wildfires in Hawaii have left 99 people dead, dozens missing and thousands affected.

Gonzalo Meza-August 17, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Hawaii fires

The island of Maui affected by wildfires in Hawaii (OSV News photo / Jeff Melichar, TMX via Reuters)

The wildfires that started on August 8 on the island of Maui in Hawaii have left, as of August 15, 99 dead, dozens missing and thousands affected. As the days go by, this figure could increase, according to Hawaii Governor Josh Green. Although the fires are already under control, the authorities continue the rescue and search work.

The fire destroyed thousands of structures, mostly residential areas in the town of Lahaina, a city of 12,000 inhabitants on the west coast of the island of Maui and the second largest in the archipelago. Other communities severely affected were the area of "Kihei" and the inland communities known as "Upcountry".

On August 11, President Biden declared the state of Hawaii a disaster area and made available to the state a range of federal assistance ranging from temporary shelters to financial aid for victims. State and local authorities have also made available six temporary shelter centers, shelters, mobile medical centers, transportation and assistance centers.

The Diocese of Honolulu

The Pope FrancisIn his message after the Angelus on August 13, he expressed his sadness for the tragedy and assured his prayers for the victims. Also, in a telegram sent the day before, His Holiness expressed his closeness and solidarity with those who lost loved ones.

Ecclesiastically, Maui and the other islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago belong to the Diocese of Honolulu, governed by Msgr. Clarence R. Silva. The diocese has 66 parishes served by 56 priests. On the island of Maui there are 18 churches, one of them called "Maria Lanakila", located in the historic center of Lahaina, one of the most devastated areas. However, the parish was not affected. This church was built in 1846, although the first Mass celebrated in the city of Lahaina was in 1841.

God is still near

Bishop Clarence Silva visited the disaster area in Maui and presided at Mass on August 13 at Sacred Hearts Church in Kapalua. In his homily he said that even in the midst of these dramatic events, God's voice assures us of his love and care.

Despite this tragedy, he noted, "God never abandons us, but embraces us with whispers of comfort and love. God's hand is near and visible through the thousands of people in Hawaii, the United States and around the world who are praying for you. The whisper of God's love is louder than the noise and drama of the disaster," the cardinal said. During his visit, Bishop Silva listened to the dramatic accounts of families who suffered damage or loss. "Contemplating the rubble of the city of Lahaina was a very sad moment," he said. 

Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States in 1959. It is located 3,200 kilometers southwest of California. It is an archipelago of 8 islands with several islets and atolls. Its capital is Honolulu. Due to its natural beauty and climate, tourism is the main economic activity of the state. 

To help those affected in Maui, the Catholic Charities of Hawaii have issued a call for donations through their official web site

In addition, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has asked all of its parishes to take up a special collection on the weekends of August 19-20 and 26-27 to send to disaster victims. The proceeds from the Los Angeles parishes will be sent to Hawaii through the Pontifical Mission Societies of Los Angeles ("The Pontifical Mission Societies in Los Angeles").

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