Pope Francis asks everyone to pray for Australia amid devastating fires

Pope Francis is calling on the faithful to pray for Australia as major fires rage across the nation.

Francis drew a round of applause after he made the unscripted appeal at the end of his general audience Wednesday.

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"I'd like to ask for you to pray to the Lord to help the (Australian) people at this difficult moment, with these powerful fires," he said. "I'm close to the Australian people.”

An intentionally lit controlled fire burns intensely near Tomerong, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby. Around 2,300 firefighters in New South Wales state were making the most of relatively benign conditions by frantically consolidating containment lines around more than 110 blazes and patrolling for lightning strikes, state Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

An intentionally lit controlled fire burns intensely near Tomerong, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby. Around 2,300 firefighters in New South Wales state were making the most of relatively benign conditions by frantically consolidating containment lines around more than 110 blazes and patrolling for lightning strikes, state Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Thousands of firefighters continue to battle the blazes that have burned millions of acres in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, an area twice the size of Maryland. Nationwide, at least 26 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, while hundreds of millions of animals are believed to have perished.

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In November, Francis urged governments to make good on their commitments to curb global warming, warning that climate change left unchecked threatens to turn Earth into a vast pile of "rubble, deserts and refuse."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.