French bishop issues call for three days of prayers… for rain

A bishop in the south east of France has asked the faithful to spend the next three days praying for one thing only - rain.

French bishop issues call for three days of prayers... for rain

The call to prayer has been issued by Xavier Malle, the bishop of Gap, in south eastern France.

He was prompted to issue the unusual instruction to worshippers after receiving a letter from a resident of the village of Lautaret in the Hautes-Alpes department.

The worried member of the public pleaded with the bishop to pray for rain, because they hadn't had a drop in six months and the drought was taking its toll.

So from Friday until Sunday December 10th the Christians of the Hautes-Alpes have been asked to pray for rain.

And he's serious.

“There is a specific prayer mass to ask for rain which is not very well known but which exists in the priest's book,” he told France Info radio. 

“Our department has experienced a terrible drought for the past six months. People speak of the beauty of our region and everyone is proud to talk about the 300 days of good weather each year, but in reality the situation is tragic for all of us,” he said.

(Rivers have been drying up in the French Alps. AFP)

The drought has had a particularly bad impact on farmers, but the bishop is concerned that it may lead to environmental hazards such as forest fires.

The bishop also hopes the three-day prayer-athon will help worshippers become more aware of man's role in climate change.

“We are responsible for climate change,” he said. “So this is not just a prayer but it can also raise our awareness to realise that water is sacred.”

The good news for the bishop is that prayers already appear to have been answered with rain forecast for the coming days.


Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.