Catholic Community Offers Prayers, Aid to London Fire Victims
Parishes opened their doors to offer comfort and supplies to those affected by massive blaze at an apartment complex.
LONDON — The Catholic bishops of Westminster offered their prayers and local parishes opened their doors to offer aid and supplies to those affected by a massive fire at an apartment complex in west London on Wednesday.
“We pray for all the residents of the Grenfell Tower. I pray particularly for those who have suffered injury, those who have died, and all the residents who are left without a home today, and the entire community that has been affected,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols in a statement.
On June 14, just after midnight, a fire began on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower, located in north Kensington, a district of west London. The 24-story building is home to hundreds of people, and the fire blazed until early in the morning.
As of Friday morning, the death toll had risen to 30. Some 70 people were hospitalized for injuries sustained in the incident, including a dozen whose condition was still critical as of Friday.
Hundreds of people who escaped the flames have lost their homes and all of their belongings, but Catholic parishes in the surrounding area have quickly begun receiving donations of food, clothes and water to be distributed. St. Clemente, one nearby church, has seen such an outpouring that it has asked for future donations to be given to a church a few blocks away.
Auxiliary Bishop John Wilson of Westminster especially offered prayers for “all who are still worried about their loved ones who are unaccounted for.”
Stuart Cundy, commander of the Metropolitan Police, expects the death toll to rise, but he has thus far declined to comment on any details of the missing people due to the complexity and difficulty of the identifying process. Firefighters continue to recover victims at the scene, as they investigate what caused the blaze.
Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton encouraged surviving residents to report themselves to authorities so they are known to be safe. An emergency number has also been established for friends and family worried for loved ones who are known to be residents of the building.
Cardinal Nichols applauded the emergency response team, which included more than 250 firefighters and more than 100 ambulance medics.
“Once again in our city we witness the heroic efforts of our emergency services, who responded so quickly. I thank them for all they are doing to help the victims of this devastating fire.”
UPDATE on June 19, 10:35am Eastern: Pope Francis Offers Prayers and Condolences, by Hannah Brockhaus/CNA/EWTN News
On Saturday, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the victims of the devastating fire, offering his condolences for the families of those who have died.
A June 17 telegram sent to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, stated that Pope Francis "was saddened to learn of the devastating fire in London and of the tragic loss of life and injury."
The Pope “entrusts the souls of those who have died to the Lord's loving mercy and offers his heartfelt condolences to their families,” it stated.
Signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram went on to express the Pope's appreciation "for the brave efforts of the emergency service personnel and all committed to supporting those who have lost their homes."
Concluding, Francis also invoked upon the whole local community "God's blessings of strength and peace."
In the wake of the tragedy, grief has also led to anger at what has been perceived as a failure by authorities to take seriously the concerns of Grenfell residents prior to the fire, as well as a lack of official presence and coordination in the hours following.
Protests have gathered steam, and on Friday, demonstrators stormed Kensington Town Hall, calling on authorities to provide financial support for victims and to rehouse residents within the borough.