Churches offering comfort after Brazil nightclub fire
Christians have been praying and offer their support in the aftermath of a devastating nightclub fire in Brazil that left 231 people dead.
The blaze at Kiss nightclub, in Santa Maria, in the early hours of Sunday morning is believed to have been started by sparks from pyrotechnics. Most of the victims were students.
Vigils and services have been held across Brazil this week as the nation comes to terms with the scale of the tragedy.
Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, took to social networking sites after the tragedy to call people to a vigil at the local cathedral.
Since then, he has been involved in the organisation of prayer circles and other events "to express solidarity and offer spiritual and psychological support to families of the victims".
There were scenes of anguish this week as funerals for many of the victims were held.
Bishop Silva noted that the families of the injured were also going through a difficult time.
He said the role of the church in times of tragedy was to make sure people felt supported in their faith and able to grieve "without losing hope".
"We rely on the grace of God. Such tragedies reveal to us that the same pain which weakens us also brings us closer to God and to each other," he said.
Bishop Silva was part of an ecumenical service held close to the nightclub on Monday. He was joined by Fr Francesco Bianchini of the Roman Catholic Church and the Reverend Reinoldo Neumann of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil.
The President of the Methodist Bishops Conference of Brazil, Bishop Adonias Pereira do Lago said in a message of support: "Our solidarity in Jesus allows us to feel the pain that is in all those families and friends of the victims. Please count on our prayers and support."
Bishop Marisa Ferreira de Freitas called upon Brazil's political leaders to take steps to improve safety at nightclubs and other public venues.
In his message to the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit gave assurances of the support and prayers of Christians worldwide.
"Our prayers are with you as a nation mourning the deaths of those young Brazilians, particularly those supporting all the people affected, including the churches of different confessions, which are providing the necessary accompaniment to families affected by the tragedy," he said.