Anglicans caught in La Palma eruption


Anglican parishioners in the Canary Islands hope to resume normal life and church activities after earthquakes and a volcanic eruption devastated parts of the Spanish archipelago over the weekend.

“A number of people have moved to stay elsewhere – and while no one is in direct danger, some homes certainly are,” Suffragan Bishop in Europe Reverend David Hamid said on Tuesday.

“Most of the church members are retired British: some alone and quite old – and, as they do not have a strong family support network here to support them, unlike the native Canarians, they rely on the goodwill of their friends. and local parishioners. But it is one of the strengths of the Church in the Canaries that there is a strong community spirit within our Anglican chaplaincies. People are always good at helping each other.

The London-based bishop spoke as Spanish rescuers battled to save property and land in La Palma, one of the seven main islands, after the massive volcanic eruption in Cumbre Vieja on Sunday afternoon.

The Archdeacon of Gibraltar had yet to receive requests for practical help, but would offer all possible support if requested, he said.

A parishioner near the epicenter of La Palma, Alan Chopping, said the worst earthquake before the eruption occurred during the Sunday Eucharist in St Martin de Porres, El Paso, which is shared with Roman Catholics ; but, he said, he was counting on resuming normal church activities “as soon as possible.”

Scientist and musician, M Chopping said, “The measuring devices around the island had already detected a lot of seismic movements, but halfway through the service there was this massive shaking that shocked everyone.

“It’s still an evolving situation, but the local authorities are managing it well. While some residents were evacuated to a former army barracks on the east coast, the British Consulate in Tenerife has advised our nationals what to do if things get worse.

Spanish television reported that more than 25,000 minor earthquakes had been detected in the eight days leading up to the eruption, which was followed by four major earthquakes, raising the La Palma landmass by 15cm.

More than 6,000 people had been evacuated by midweek from El Paso, Tazacorte and Los Llanos de Aridane, far from the lava path, which had so far buried at least 300 homes, as well as roads, farms and a primary school.

Maritime authorities have established a two nautical mile exclusion zone off the west coast of La Palma, fearing that the molten rock, moving at 200 meters per hour, would release toxic gases when it reached the sea .

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has postponed a trip to this week’s United Nations summit in New York, to oversee rescue efforts on the island, which has 80,000 residents and is popular with tourists.

A Catholic priest from El Paso, Father Domingo Guerra, said the lava flow, which could continue for weeks, was “much more disturbing and overwhelming” than the previous eruptions at Cumbre Vieja in 1949 and 1971 .

Father Antonio Hernandez, another parish priest, told Spanish weekly RC Alfa and Omega that Christians had been left “stunned and in awe of the beauty of this manifestation of nature,” but said he hastily removed the tabernacle and other precious items from his church in Los Llanos, which remained on the path of the lava.

“Part of our parishes are now in a closed security zone: we had to make choices and get out what we could, while providing shelter to the homeless,” Father Hernandez told the newspaper.

“They are humble, hard-working people – mostly farmers, with a few government officials – who have built their own homes and make a living here. We must now wait and see if the worst predictions come true, or if we are going to obtain a truce and still be able to save our neighborhoods ”.

Besides the predominant Roman Catholic Church, which has two dioceses in the Canaries – Tenerife and Gran Canaria – there are half a dozen Anglican communities, mostly made up of British citizens, with a few American, Canadian and African members, and seven separate members. whole. priests of time.

The chaplain of All Saints’ Day, Puerto de La Cruz, Tenerife, the Reverend Ron Corne, whose church, consecrated in 1891, is considered the oldest Anglican place of worship in Spain, has asked for prayers for those who had lost their homes and livelihoods. on La Palma, as well as for the emergency services which are still struggling to contain the disaster.


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