Super Cathedral in Christchurch a “pipe dream”

The possibility of Catholic and Anglicans sharing a  common super cathedral in Christchurch is being described as nothing but a pipe dream, by  Mike Grimshaw, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Canterbury University.  “It would be the first ecumenical cathedral in the world, but ‘there is no way it would work”.

“High Anglicans might be happy about it, but a lot of other Anglicans are very Protestant, so they don’t like a lot of images, they don’t want statues of Mary, they wouldn’t want stations of the cross around the church, so what you’d have to do is truck stuff in and out.”

“The differences between the two churches, such as the ordination of female priests and the doctrine surrounding Jesus’ mother Mary, would make the proposal impossible. The Anglican Church split from the Catholic Church more than 500 years ago and had always ‘defined itself against the Catholics'”, said Grimshaw. To combine into one cathedral now would raise questions about theology, authority and control over the one building.

He also said bringing the Catholic Cathedral into the city centre would be an ”incredible political move” because Christchurch was originally meant to be an Anglican settlement. “Everything works against having a shared cathedral.”

His comments come after reports that Anglicans in Christchurch are talking about rebuilding a shared super cathedral with Catholics.

Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews has confirmed the controversial idea has been discussed informally but is reluctant to speak publicly for fear of killing the possibility.

“There are conversations about this going on, but those conversations are with ourselves,” she told Fairfax Media.

However Anglican Diocese of Christchurch Vicar General John Sheaf said the idea was “not being discussed in any forum”.

“As far as I know there is nothing on the radar.”

He said such a far reaching issue as this would have been raised at the recent annual Anglican Diocese of Christchurch Synod and  the Vatican would also have to be involved in any discussion.

“I can’t image them saying ‘that’s fine’.” Different faiths used individual churches because “they cater to different styles and personalities”, he said.

Christchurch’s Catholic Bishop Barry Jones said he struggled to ‘visualise’ how the two church groups could combine into one building.

Jones was aware Anglican churches in the South Island had been ‘very hospitable’ to displaced Catholic congregations but struggled to imagine the city’s two major cathedrals following suit.

”The really important part is that a cathedral is the bishop’s church by definition and how you would have a building that would serve as a church of two bishops, I don’t know and I can’t imagine it.”


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