Catholic bishop puts building projects on hold

A decision on the future of the earthquake-damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch has been delayed to March or April, rather the end of this year as originally planned.

Canterbury Roman Catholic bishop Paul Martin said he is still considering whether to restore the cathedral, knock it down and build a new one, or move to a new site.

In May, Martin said he was sceptical the $105 million restoration budget for the cathedral would not increase. He also questioned the morality of raising the $70m shortfall for the cathedral when it could be spent on other priorities in the city.

The cathedral was partially demolished and stabilised after sustaining damage in the 2011 earthquakes.
IAIN MCGREGOR/STUFFThe cathedral was partially demolished and stabilised after sustaining damage in the 2011 earthquakes.

“I am still thinking. It is a work in progress,” he said.

“I am trying to keep an open mind on all options … We are not rushing.

“[Restoration] is still a risky project in terms of the cost and what it is projected to be and what it will actually be.”

The cathedral in February 2011, just a few days before the earthquake.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFFThe cathedral in February 2011, just a few days before the earthquake.

Martin has also put all planned Catholic building projects in Christchurch on hold while a review of parish and church numbers in the city is conducted.

The decision meant a large new Catholic church in Mairehau, which was due to start construction this month, was put on hold. The St Francis of Assisi parish in Mairehau had already raised $1.6m for the project.

Martin said the review would conclude at the same time as a decision is reached on the cathedral in March or April next year.

Plans for a new Mairehau Catholic church have been put on hold.
SUPPLIEDPlans for a new Mairehau Catholic church have been put on hold.

“We are looking at the number of priests and where our people are and where the city has developed,” he said.

“It is an overall review. Do we have too many churches across the city? [We will look at ] the financial implications of insurance and running all those buildings.”

He said the review may result in fewer Catholic parishes in the city.

“I would be surprised if we didn’t, but people are very connected to their parishes so we have to be very sensitive to that.”

Father Simon Eccleton said the decision to put construction on hold was painful for his Mairehau parish.

They currently hold five mass ceremonies on a Sunday to accommodate all their congregation in the 190-seat church. The new church on Innes Rd would have held 450 people.

The cathedral at dusk in 2002.
DAVID HALLETT/STUFFThe cathedral at dusk in 2002.

“People are smarting a bit about this,” he said.

“We have had so much change and lost so much and we were about to get under way, but now we are having to review again.”

But he said he understood that a review was needed for the city.

The cathedral from the air in 1934.
PRESS ARCHIVESThe cathedral from the air in 1934.

“We will get a new church, but there is not certainty that it will be here.”

Martin said he felt “very sorry” for the parish.

“It was very tough for them,” he said.

“That is difficult when you have gone down that path and prepared plans.”

www.stuff.co.nz

Charlie Gates19:39, Oct 19 2018