By Devin Watkins
Wildfires have raged in vast tracts of the Americas this year, with several US states and parts of South America suffering acutely.
Pope Francis took a moment at the Angelus prayer on Sunday to recall these fires and to link them to a harsh drought and people’s actions.
“I want to express my closeness to the people affected by wildfires which are devastating many areas of the planet, as well as to the volunteers and firefighters who are risking their lives to put out the fires.”
The Pope mentioned the West Coast of the United States, especially California, and the central regions of South America: “the Pantanal area, Paraguay, the banks of the Parana River, and Argentina.”
“May the Lord strengthen those who are suffering the effects of these catastrophes, and may He make us aware of the need to safeguard Creation,” said Pope Francis.
Fires in the Americas
In the western United States, California, Oregon, and Washington have seen vast wildfires burn more than 6.6 million acres and kill at least 37 people.
South America’s Pantanal region is the world’s largest tropical wetland. Vast tracts have burned in 2020, with researchers saying some 22 percent of the floodplain has been scorched, or 7.9 million acres.
Paraguay and Argentina too have seen record amounts of land succumb to record-breaking blazes.
Pope Francis also turned his thoughts to a tenuous humanitarian ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
He welcomed a Russian-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which took effect on Saturday at noon.
The Pope admitted that the cessation in hostilities is tenuous but prayed that it might hold for the sake of civilians suffering in the area.
“Even though the truce appears very fragile, I encourage its continuation and express my sympathy for the loss of lives, for the suffering, and for the destruction of homes and places of worship.”
Pope Francis then invited everyone to pray for the victims and those whose lives are in danger.