New York’s Catholic Leaders Respond to Deadly Bronx Fire

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Currents News Staff

An emotional prayer vigil took place outside the apartment building in the Bronx where 17 people died in a fire. It was a tragic scene – heavy smoke filled stairwells in the building as people tried to escape. Among those 17 people who died, eight children lost their lives.

Pope Francis is praying for the victims and sent his condolences to the Archdiocese of New York, while people in the Diocese of Brooklyn, including Bishop Robert Brennan, are also sending their prayers. The bishop spoke about the fire during Mass on Monday morning, Jan. 10, at St. James Basilica.

“We did at Mass what we do best, we prayed,” Bishop Brennan said. “I prayed for those who have died. We grieve with those who grieve, we mourn with those who mourn. We prayed for those who are injured, asking God to help bring healing and to help the families and the caregivers.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says it doesn’t get worse than that. He went to the Bronx on Monday, tweeted pictures and thanked God for the fire department.

“I’m visiting the scene with the fire companies that responded so that I might see how the Church can assist,” the cardinal tweeted. “Thank God for the @FDNY.”

The cardinal received a letter from the Vatican which said Pope Francis was saddened to hear of the fire. It read in part:

“In offering heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to those affected by this tragedy, he entrusts the victims and their families to the merciful love of almighty God and invokes upon all consolation and strength in the Lord.”

New York’s Mayor Eric Adams said several people are in critical condition.

“We pray to God they’re able to pull through,” the mayor said.

More than 60 people were hurt, mostly because of smoke inhalation and an investigation is underway. It seems the fire was sparked by a malfunctioning electric space heater and the smoke spread quickly through the building because doors were left open. Mayor Adams says there’s a city law that requires doors to close automatically.

“We are looking to determine if there was some form of malfunction with the doors,” the mayor said.

Residents reported that smoke alarms would go off frequently in the building, so many ignored the sound when they heard it.

“The alarm was going off for a while so I didn’t pay it no mind,” survivor Daisy Mitchell said. “When I opened the door and went out there, I passed out. It was devastating. It was, like, real scary and I went to the elevator. They said, ‘no, don’t take the elevator.’ I went to the stairs to open the door, and it blew me back in the house. I panicked. I said let me in the house. I can’t see. I’m blind.”

The mayor said it’s a wakeup call for the city’s buildings.

“Do proper testing, make sure complaints of repeated smoke alarms going off without any real smoke or fire. We need to make sure these systems operate because they save lives.”