A Catholic church narrowly escaped destruction from the wildfires which raged across the Hawaiian island of Maui this week, with one online influencer saying it has become a “symbol of hope” for local residents.
Video and photos posted on social media show the historic Maria Lanakila church, which was founded in 1846, apparently unscathed despite surrounding buildings and vegetation having been incinerated. The church is located in the town of Lahaina, which was largely wiped out by the fire with more than 1,700 buildings reported burned.
On Friday authorities confirmed the death toll on Maui had risen to 80, with firefighters continuing to tackle infernos in what has become the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaiian history.
A 20-second clip taken in front of Maria Lanakila was posted on X, formerly Twitter, by Sachin Jose, a self-styled ‘Catholic journalist’ with more than 112,000 followers on the platform.
He wrote: “A miracle? … According to local reports coming out, Maria Lanakila, a Catholic church in Lahaina has remained untouched by the fire. Maria Lanakila, which translates to Our Lady of Victory has become a symbol of hope for the residents.”
A miracle?— Sachin Jose (@Sachinettiyil) August 12, 2023
A Catholic church reportedly remains untouched by the wildfires as a symbol of hope in Hawaii
Around 67 people have died in the wildfires that has almost totally destroyed the Lahaina town in Hawaii’s Maui. While according to local reports coming out, Maria… pic.twitter.com/VxRzN1wX16
A photograph of the church, taken from the road out front which acted as a firebreak, was shared on X by Jack Posobiec, a conservative writer with 2.2 million followers who edits the right-wing Human Events news site.
He commented: “A new photo shows that Maria Lanakila Catholic Church is still standing amid the ashes and devastation left by the massive fire that destroyed much of Lahaina, Maui this week.”
Speaking to The Pillar, a Catholic news outlet, on Friday, Terrence Watanabe, the pastor of the nearby St. Anthony’s parish, confirmed the church was still standing.
He said: “Basically what we know is the fact that all of Lahaina Town has been consumed by fire. It’s all gone. The church, Maria Lanakila, is still standing, as is the rectory. The school’s been a little bit affected.”
According to the Maria Lanakila’s official website it was first established in 1846, with the current stone structure being completed in 1873. It contains a number of old paintings which the website says were “possibly gifts from King Kalakaua or his sister, Queen Liliuokalani.” Kalakaua and Liliuokalani were the last two rulers of the independent Kingdom of Hawaii, which was annexed by the United States in 1898.