Melbourne priest pours cold water on PM's rain prayers

As the nation's political leaders discuss emergency water conservation plans, Archbishop Philip Wilson has taken up Prime Minister John Howard's call to pray for rain - but a Melbourne priest says the prayer is "pointless".

In a statement released on Friday, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Wilson, calls on all Australians to pray for rain as the drought continues to cause widespread devastation.

Archbishop Wilson also prayed on Sunday at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral in Adelaide for drought-breaking rainfall.

"Our hope is that the Lord will grant us adequate rains for our urgent needs," he said.

The power of prayer is very strong and we have every hope in asking for the Lord's intervention and help at this time of great difficulty."

Archbishop Wilson said his prayers would also be with the many people across the nation who are personally hurt by the continuing drought.

Last week, Prime Minister John Howard warned that unless there was significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, there would be no water available for irrigation at the start of the water year on 1 July.

"We should all, literally and without any irony, pray for rain over the next six to eight weeks," he told ABC TV.

But well-known Melbourne priest, Fr Bob Maguire (pictured) says church leaders across Australia can pray for rain "until they go black in the face" but it won't solve the water crisis.

"Maybe our prayers need a creative spin, like 'O God, please turn this wine into water'," Fr Maguire said, according to a Herald-Sun report.

"Now I know a lot of people won't like it, particularly if people are making their prayers over a nice bottle of Grange, but this water problem is bigger than all of us boys and girls down here on ground level."

Fr Maguire, of St Peter and Paul's Parish, is among many Melbourne priests warning drought-stricken farmers not to pin all their hopes on divine intervention.

"Praying for rain is great and we will be doing it in our services, but we have to be prepared to work on finding solutions to the problem ourselves," he said.

According to the Australian, Fr Maguire's scepticism is also shared by weather experts.

Seasonal rainfall predictions from the Bureau of Meteorology reveal a moderate increase in the chance of above-average rainfall across southeast Queensland and northeast NSW.

The rest of the country, however, has only a one-in-two chance of even average rainfall over the next three months.

Pray for rain, says Archbishop Philip Wilson (ACBC, Media Release, 20/4/07)
Last resort: stop the Murray (The Age, 21/4/07)
Priest claims praying 'pointless' (Herald-Sun, 21/4/07)
Even rain may not answer PM's prayers (The Australian, 21/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Water: A Time for prayer (Archdiocese of Brisbane)
Sts Peter and Paul Parish, South Melbourne
Hydrometeorological Advisory Service, Bureau of Meteorology

Christians unite in prayer for rain (CathNews, 16/11/06)
Qld Catholics to join other Christians in rain prayer (CathNews, 27/10/06)
Call for prayer as bush faces a ‘winter of fear’ (CathNews 5/6/05)
Bishops urge prayer for rain (CathNews, 14/5/04)
Church leaders declare Sunday a day of prayer for rain (CathNews 27/11/02)

23 Apr 2007

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