Pope Benedict has sent condolences to all the victims and families of all those affected by the Victorian bushfires that claimed over 200 lives and released the energy equivalent of 500 Hiroshima nuclear bombs.
In a message to Australian Governor General, Ms Quentin Bruce and relayed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the tragic consequences of recent fires in the state of Victoria."
He assured all affected of his closeness in prayer, the message from Cardinal Bertone says.
"The Holy Father commends the deceased to the loving mercy of Almight God, and upon their grieving families and upon all those suffering from loss of property and destruction of land he invokes divine strength and consolation.
"His Holiness likewise prays for all involved in providing assistance to the victims of this disaster encouraging them in their efforts to bring relief and support," Cardinal Bertone wrote.
The toll from the fires is now expected to pass 200, Victorian Premier John Brumby said yesterday. Some sources are placing the estimated toll as high as 300.
Melbourne University fire ecologist, Dr Kevin Tolhurst, told the Herald Sun the fires were so hot the energy they released could have supplied Victoria with electricity for at least two years.
Up to 80,000 kilowatts per metre of heat was expelled as the fires raged on Saturday.
Dr Tolhurst said this equalled about 500 atomic bombs landing on Hiroshima.
Incendiary abortion law reform to blame: Pastor
Earlier, controversial Catch the Fires Christian ministry leader Danny Nalliah blamed Victoria's 2008 abortion law reforms that made Victoria "the baby-killing state".
"God's protection has been taken off the state, and Satan is having a go at the nation," Mr Nalliah, senior pastor of Catch the Fire Ministries, told The Age.
Pope Benedict XVI sends prayer and condolences to all affected by bushfires (ACBC Media Release)
Drought, strong winds and heat combined to produce Victoria fires (The Australian)
Fire 'divine retribution', says minister (The Age)
Bushfires on Twitter
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