School was out for summer
Bishops visit Canberra evacuation centres
Bishop Pat Power (pictured), auxiliary Bishop for Canberra and Goulburn, has friends who lost their homes in the Canberra bushfires.
"They are very distressed and in shock, trying to come to terms with what has happened," he said.
"I am supporting them as much as I can.
"One lady was about to leave her home with her husband to seek safety when he noticed that his neighbour's house was in strife, so he stayed to help.
"When I met her she was trying to track him down."
The bishop was impressed with the great spirit shown by the bushfire victims.
"People are taking the view: 'We have got our lives, that is what matters. We can always rebuild'," he said, "though I fear that, as time goes on, that spirit will be tested."
Bishop Power was speaking as he prepared to go to the worst hit areas on the Monday after the horror weekend in which hundreds of homes and several lives were lost.
"I could not go before because everyone was asked not to," he said. "The people fighting the fires and cleaning up had enough to do without worrying about people who did not need to be there."
Earlier he accompanied Archbishop Francis Carroll, Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, on a visit to evacuation centres which had been set up in local high schools.
"Things had calmed down a bit by then as people found accommodation with extended family members and friends," Bishop Power said.
"Fr Kevin Brannelly and Sr Margaret Watson of the Holder and Waramanga parishes are doing what they can for the people in these suburbs, which were the worst affected.
"The fire went close to the church and school at St Jude's (in Holder). Some people came to help save them and did a lot of hosing, which was much appreciated."
The bishop praised the efforts of St John Ambulance members who, he said, "played a great part in providing people with first aid, helping people with respiratory problems who had breathed in smoke, or washing ash out of people's eyes".
Vinnies was also "playing a big part - along with the Salvation Army - in relief efforts being co-ordinated by the Red Cross".
Centacare had been counselling and assisting people "under the co-ordination of Centrelink".
Archbishop Carroll said an ecumenical service is being planned in Canberra to thank the firefighters and pray for those who have lost their homes or loved ones.
"But that will happen a bit down the track," he said. "People have to be given time to get their lives in order, time to think."
He was preparing to go around the parishes, meet the priests and the parishioners, and offer what prayers, consolation and assistance he could.
Archbishop Carroll was down the coast with a youth group when the fires struck on the Saturday.
"There was a discussion about whether to cancel the trip," he said, "but the parents were glad their children were out of Canberra and safe."
The opening hours of St Christopher's Cathedral, in Canberra Ave, Manuka, have been extended for people wishing to pray there. The new hours are 6.30am-10pm.