Bishop questions raising $70 million for Cathedral restoration


The Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, Paul Martin is reconsidering restoration of the earthquake-damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

The diocese has about $30m from insurance but the total cost of a complete restoration is estimated to be in the region of $100 million.

That leaves about $70m to be obtained from fund-raising.

Martin has questioned the morality of using that amount of money on restoring the Cathedral when it could be spent on programmes like low-cost housing.

“Do we really want to ask people for $70m plus for the church? … It is a lot of money.”

“We are trying to make sure it’s not just about buildings, but it is about people as well.”

Martin said he wanted more information before making a final decision.

“The decision to be made is: do we restore it and what will that cost? Or do we say it was the nicest Catholic church in the country but it’s too badly damaged and will cost too much to restore and we’ll start again?” he said.

Martin is exploring other options, including building a new cathedral on a more central Christchurch site.

He plans to ask architects to draw up concepts for what a new cathedral might look like on a $40m budget.

The bishop said he thought a lot of people never went into the cathedral because they did not walk past it.

“We want the church to be part of the life of the city and say ‘come in’. If you are further out people only go there deliberately rather than pop in like they may have done with the Anglican cathedral.”

“Just because we have been on Barbadoes St for 100 plus years it doesn’t mean that we have to be there for the next 100. We could look at other places if they are seen as desirable.”

Dr Anna Crighton of the Christchurch Heritage Trust said Martin’s reconsideration on the cathedral was a “turnaround”.

“I think there would be a lot of people out there that would be concerned about that,” she said.

“All we can do is hope that he will honour the past decision that it would be restored.”


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