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Archbishop Aquila opens parishes, launches emergency fund for victims of Colorado wildfires

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Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver announced on Friday the establishment of an emergency fund to assist victims of the most destructive fires in Colorado’s history.

Local Catholic parishes have been opened to receive displaced families.

“The wildfires that suddenly started yesterday and spread through more than 6,000 acres of the northwest metro Denver towns of Superior and Louisville have shocked everyone. Hundreds of people, including parishioners of St. LouisSacred Heart of Mary and Immaculate Conception have lost their homes and need our support,” the archbishop said in a Dec. 31 statement.

“To those affected by these fires, know that Joseph and Mary had to flee with Jesus, shortly after he was born. The Holy Family is close to you and knows the anguish and loss you are feeling. You are in my prayers and the prayers of our faithful throughout the archdiocese,” he added.

Archbishop Aquila also announced that he has asked “our parishes and entities to help in whatever ways they can, including hosting those who are displaced, opening food pantries and engaging Knights of Columbus councils for volunteers.”

“As we approach the Sunday liturgy this weekend, I am also asking that all Catholics in the archdiocese pray during the Prayers of the Faithful for all who have been impacted and to consider giving to a special collection that will be taken during Masses on the weekend of January 8-9.”

Donations from the collection will be put into a special fund that will be distributed through parishes in the affected region.

“Thanks to the generosity of the faithful to this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, the archdiocese will be contributing $250,000 to the fund,” Aquila wrote.

“While it is still too soon to understand the full scope of the impact, we do know that at least two of our parishes have had to evacuate – St. Louis in Louisville and Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder. Fortunately, neither of them has burned down.”

The fire started northwest of Denver when a power line fell and made contact with the ground in the early afternoon of Dec 30. Winds of over 100 miles an hour and an extreme drought in the region created the conditions for a ravaging fire that, according to early Friday reports, has destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and become the most destructive in Colorado’s history.

The fire affected mostly the suburban corridor between Denver and Boulder, an area that has seen the longest snowless winter on record.

By noon Friday, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries, thanks to early evacuations.

“We are especially grateful that it appears no one has died in this fire, which is a testament to the quick action taken by our first responders to the fire and the threat to life and property,” Archbishop Aquila wrote.

“May God continue to protect the first responders fighting the fires and comfort all who have been affected by them.”

Local authorities are expected to provide an update on the fire later Friday, but in the early afternoon, the fires had mostly subsided as winds have slowed down and Colorado’s Front Range prepares for the first major snow of the season.

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