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Pope urges prayers for rain

Pope John Paul II urged people to pray for rain on Sunday to ease Europe's seemingly relentless heat wave, expressing concern about the bushfires devouring large sections of forests on the continent.

"Vast fires have developed in these days in several nations in Europe, with particular intensity in Portugal, sparking deaths and enormous danger to the environment," the Pope told a crowd of pilgrims and tourists in the courtyard of his summer residence in the hills outside of Rome.

"It is a worrisome emergency which, fed by persistent drought as well as human responsibility, puts at risk the environmental heritage, a precious good for entire humanity," the Pope said.

"I invite all to join in my prayers for the victims of this calamity, and I exhort all to raise to the Lord fervent entreaties so that he may grant the relief of rain to the thirsty earth," the pontiff said.

Some 40 deaths, including victims of the blazes, have been blamed on the combination of weeks of drought and temperatures reaching around 40 degrees.

Authorities have blamed arson and human carelessness for at least some of the blazes. In Italy, at least two suspects have been questioned in the last few days about suspicious fires.

Besides Italy and Portugal, Spain, Croatia, France, Greece, the Netherlands and Croatia have been plagued by wildfires.

Some weather experts have predicted that the heat wave will last until September.

Globe & Mail

Pope urges prayers to end European drought (Catholic World News)
More Hot Weather Forecast for Much of Europe (VOA)
Pope prays for rain as heat and bushfires hit Europe (Toronto Star)

12 Aug 2003