Christchurch Catholic cathedral and diocese plan back on track

Under a contentious plan, the building of a new Christchurch Catholic cathedral precinct will proceed.

Earlier this year, after opposition from a small group of parishioners, Bishop Michael Gielen paused plans for the new central city precinct.

On Sunday, Gielen wrote to congregations saying the diocese’s post-earthquake project – including most parish mergers – could go ahead after all.

The plan

The “post-earthquake” plan includes building a new $40m cathedral on a half-hectare church-owned site opposite Victoria Square.

Next to it, private developer Philip Carter will build offices and a parking building along with an adjacent school at the end of the block.

The plan also includes merging suburban parishes and selling the excess land – as well as the land on the earthquake-damaged cathedral site.

All up, the plan is priced at $100 million. Diocesan general manager Simon Thompson says funding is not dependent on the diocese’s plans for the suburbs.

Engaging with Rome

One of the concerns which the parishioners opposing the plan complained of to Rome related to suburban parishes. The plan involved parish mergers and selling excess sites, reducing 12 city churches to five.

This plan did not cater for parishioners’ spiritual needs, the parishioners claimed.

Meanwhile, Gielen was waiting for guidance,which came in the form of a letter from the Vatican.

Anxious to resolve the two-pronged precinct and parish merger issues, Gielen also contacted Rome – in person.

The diocese was keen to clarify “muddy waters” after receiving a legal letter from the Vatican about the project.

The letter from the Vatican had been written in Latin, Thompson says.

So while Gielen was in Europe for the World Youth event, he went to Rome and “knocked on a few doors”. The project just couldn’t stay in limbo forever.

Getting out of limbo

Gielen says after meeting Vatican officials, he was advised Rome would hear the parishioners’ petition relating only to the Christchurch South parish.

That means other complaints that had been delaying the project were no longer sticking points. The plan could now go ahead, Gielen says.

The question now is “How is God calling us to administer our parish and resources?” to meet the diocese’s core mission.

The established parish boundaries would remain, Gielen says.

“It is my heartfelt belief that consolidation … of our capital resources …will help create more vibrant faith communities.”

Gielan also says he’s following up the best advice available for the cathedral precinct project.

He has not yet confirmed whether the cathedral will be built to replace the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament which was destroyed in the 2011 earthquakes.

The diocese says it will announce more details about this by December.

Gielan has promised to keep the community updated about progress.


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News category: New Zealand.

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