Portugal Prelate Urges Calm Amidst Island Flooding

Priest Says Rescued Image of Our Lady Is Giving Hope

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FUNCHAL, Madeira, FEB. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- As the death toll from flash floods on the island of Madeira climbed to more than 40, the bishop of the capital city urged serenity and prayer.

Heavy rains in the early hours of Saturday caused the streets of Funchal to become rushing rivers that carried away houses and cars. More than 120 people were injured and the number of dead is still uncertain.

Bishop António José Cavaco Carrilho of Funchal urged the people to be as calm as possible in this «difficult moment of natural anguish.»

«As your bishop, in this moment of grief I also pray and invite Catholics to pray, entrusting the worries and suffering of everyone in this hour to the Lady of the Hill, our patroness, and to the Virgin of Fatima, whose image is on pilgrimage among us,» he said.

Caritas-Portugal already sent €25,000 ($34,000) for immediate relief aid.

The president of the Portuguese episcopal conference, Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga, also affirmed «Christian and ecclesial communion.»

«All might seem a great enigma,» he said. «These are moments to find balm in solidarity.»

In the midst of the chaos, one priest said an image of Our Lady is offering a «sign of hope and consolation for all the people» of the autonomous Portuguese island.

Father Giselo Andrade explained to the Ecclesia news agency that an image of Mary was «miraculously [rescued] from the mud.» The chapel where the image was kept was completely destroyed, as were the houses under the square.

Madeira lies in the mid Atlantic Ocean, some 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from the European mainland. It is a popular tourist spot, though so far there have been no reports of tourist casualties from the flooding.

Funchal is a city of some 100,000 people on the south of the island.

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