Pope Francis Talks of ‘Spiritual Closeness’ to the Victims of Deadly Bronx Fire

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Currents News Staff and Paula Katinas

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Pope Francis reached out Monday to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York saying that he felt a “spiritual closeness” to the victims of the deadly Bronx fire that killed 17 people on Sunday.

In his telegram, Pope Francis said he “entrusts the victims and their families to the merciful love of Almighty God and invokes upon all consolation and strength in the Lord.”

Early Monday, Cardinal Dolan visited the scene of the fire to get a first-hand look at the devastation.

“It doesn’t get worse than what we witnessed in New York yesterday at that tragic fire in the Bronx,” Cardinal Dolan tweeted after the visit.

The fire, which tore through a 19-story apartment building at 333 East 181st St., killed 17 people — including eight children — and sent dozens to the hospital. Many of the hospitalized victims were reported to be in critical condition Monday.

It was the deadliest fire in New York City since the Happy Land Social Club fire in the Bronx killed 87 people on March 25, 1990.

Bishop Robert Brennan of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who was born in the Bronx, offered his condolences in a statement Monday.

“I am filled with much sadness and heartache in the wake of yesterday’s tragic fire in the Bronx. I remember in my prayers the 17 lives lost and ask God to heal those who have been injured,” Bishop Brennan said.

Many of the residents living in the building are immigrants from Gambia, according to Father Michael Kissane, pastor of St. Simon Stock-St. Joseph Church, which is located down the street from the fire scene.

One family from the parish that lived in the building lost everything in the fire, Father Kissane said.

“We have identified one family that was living in the building — a husband and wife and I believe two sons. Their apartment was destroyed … They’re staying with one of their other sons in New Jersey,” he said, adding that the family was not injured in the fire.

Father Kissane said that the church will be hosting a special Mass on Monday at 7 p.m. to pray for the victims.

Fire officials said the blaze was started by a malfunctioning space heater in a third-floor apartment.

The door to that apartment did not close as the tenants fled the apartment, according to officials, who said the fire quickly spread throughout the building as a result.

A New York City law requires that apartment buildings contain doors that automatically close. Mayor Eric Adams said 333 East 181st St. was equipped with self-closing doors and added that officials will be investigating to determine why the door to the apartment where the fire erupted didn’t close.

“There may have been a maintenance issue with this door and that is going to be a part of the ongoing investigation,” the mayor said Monday in an interview on “Good Morning America.”

While the fire itself was mostly contained to the third-floor apartment where it started, the smoke that spread throughout the building is what caused the loss of life and most of the injuries, officials said.

Attention has now turned toward helping the victims. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the American Red Cross, and the Fire Department have all offered assistance.

The Gambia Youth Organization set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations. As of Monday, the effort raised $364,879, much more than the original goal of $200,000. More than 7,000 donations were collected.

The city is also setting up donations through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.



Monetary donations

Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City

Gambian Youth Organization

Donation sites

Items being accepted for donation include bottled water, blankets, pillows, clothing, coats, hats, scarves, winter shoes, towels, personal hygiene items, masks, and hand sanitizer. Drop-off sites in the Bronx include:

** Riverdale Jewish Center, 3700 Independence Ave.

** Anthony Avenue Community Garden, 2078 Anthony Ave

** Community Board 10, 3165 E. Tremont Avenue

** The Bronx Woodlawn Collective, 341 East 235th Street

** SAR Academy, 655 W. 254 Street

** Gambian Youth Organization, 214 E. 181 Street