WelCom June/July 2023
A deliberately lit fire in Palmerston North’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, 27 April, could have been much worse if not for the quick thinking and actions of three people present who were able to douse the fire before it took hold and spread further.
Palmerston North Police said a 34-year-old man was arrested and charged with arson. He appeared in the Palmerston North District Court on 1 May and was given interim name suppression.
Physical damage to the Day Chapel is described as minor. Only the presider’s chair and a table used in the celebration of Mass were destroyed, said Fr Joe Grayland, Cathedral parish priest.
‘The altar is damaged at one end, and the carpet in the area is also fire and water damaged,’ he said. ‘The fire was out within 15 minutes but could have been much worse. The fire brigade inspector said they were minutes away from losing control.’
While the damage is minor, the smoke and ash damage means there is a problem with the air quality in the cathedral, and, on the advice of fire and insurance assessors, the cathedral is closed until it is cleaned and the air inside is deemed safe to breathe.
Fr Grayland said the smoke and ash had gone all the way to the organ at the other end of the church and out into the gathering area. Insurance assessors’ have determined scaffolding is needed to clean the church’s interior, and a special machine that sucks air out of the building is required to remove the smell of smoke.
As well as cleaning and repairing the Day Chapel, the smoke damage also means that all the vestments and linen must also be cleaned.
Meanwhile, Sunday Masses are being shared between Our Lady of Lourdes and St Mary’s churches, while weekday Masses are taking place at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Other prayer services are either in the diocesan board room or the cathedral presbytery.
in a recent parish update Fr Grayland advised, ‘Initial estimates of the time needed to clean and reinstate the cathedral have been complicated by insurance claims in other parts of the country due to weather events. I think we need to prepare ourselves for several more weeks of celebrating Sunday Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes and St Mary’s Ruahine St.’
Source: Kotahi Ano parish updates