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Oklahoma bishop calls for aid for tornado victims

24 May 2013

by a staff reporter


Salvage operation: a man helps to lift a wall in an effort to retrieve be­­long­ings from a house destroyed by tornado, in Moore, Oklahoma

Salvage operation: a man helps to lift a wall in an effort to retrieve be­­long­ings from a house destroyed by tornado, in Moore, Oklahoma

THE Bishop of Oklahoma, Dr Edward Konieczny, has asked for prayers and financial support in the wake of the devastating tornado which killed at least 24 people, including nine children.

Dr Konieczny, who is currently on sabbatical, sent a pastoral letter to his 70 congregations the day after the tornado - which has been upgraded to the most powerful level of twister - struck on Monday.

He said: "At this moment, the best assistance would be financial contributions. I am asking every congregation to make a special appeal this Sunday for tornado relief. Please forward those gifts to the diocese, and we will get them into the hands of those in need.

"We all know the people of Oklahoma are people of incredible faith, and it will be the strength of that faith that will sustain us in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead."

Churches seem to have suffered only minimal damage, though the roof on the Bishop's own home was destroyed by hail and wind damage.

The Bishop's chief-of-staff, Canon José McLoughlin, told the Church Times on Wednesday that the extent of the damage suffered as a result of the mile-wide tornado was "incredible". Two schools and a hospital had been destroyed, and entire neighbourhoods had been flattened.

"Rescue and recovery crews have been working non-stop to search for missing persons. This effort will continue into the next few days.

"We have been working hard the last two days to assess the situation and work with our clergy to account for all members of our churches and their families. We do have members that have been impacted by the tornadoes. Some have lost their homes; others have experienced extensive damage; and there have been some injuries.

"We are working to provide financial support to those in need and the other organisations involved in the recovery effort. Our churches are using their ministries to provide support for the victims of these storms, and their families.

"We are also working with Episcopal Relief and Development and the office of the Presiding Bishop to ensure resources will be available to support our efforts. We have been contacted by Episcopalians and Anglicans around the world, who have offered prayers, and human and financial resources."

One of the church schools in the area, St Mary's Episcopal School, in Edmond, is acting as a collection centre for essential supplies of bottled water, baby wipes, nappies, and formula milk, which are being distributed to victims by the Salvation Army.

Pope Francis has sent a telegram to the RC Archbishop of Oklahoma City, the Most Revd Paul Coakley, expressing his concern for the victims and those left homeless.

It said: "The Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the devastating tornado which has struck Oklahoma, and he asks you convey to the entire community the assurance of his solidarity and closeness in prayer. Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks Almighty God to grant eternal rest to the departed, comfort to the afflicted, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured.

"In a particular way, he commends to the Father of mercies the many young children among the victims, and their grieving families. Upon the local civil and religious leaders, and upon all involved in the relief efforts, His Holiness invokes the Risen Lord's gifts of consolation, strength, and perseverance in every good." 

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