OCEANIA/NEW ZEALAND - All the Catholic churches in Christchurch must be safe before any Mass can be celebrated

Friday, 25 February 2011

Christchurch (Agenzia Fides) – Bishop Barry Jones of Christchurch has prohibited the celebration of Mass throughout the 78 churches in the diocese until such time as thorough checks can be made regarding their safety, reports Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese in a message sent to Fides. In fact, many of them - already weakened by the quake last year and the 4000 aftershocks that followed – have been partially or completely destroyed by the earthquake on 21 February when 113 died and another 200 were wounded. The 106-year-old Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which was undergoing repairs after sustaining severe damage in the quake five months ago, now lies in ruins. The only example of sacred architecture in the Romanesque-style, the Cathedral lost two of its massive domes in Tuesday's quake along with a large section of its facade. The Cathedral's spectacular stained glass windows have also been completely destroyed and the roof and giant central dome are badly cracked and precarious. It is not yet known if the Cathedral can be restored or if it will be condemned and have to be demolished and rebuilt. But for all the Diocese churches as well as the Diocese's seven secondary schools and 29 Catholic primary schools, the big problem at hand is to ensure they are safe. (AP) (25/2/2011 Agenzia Fides)