CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand No Catholic church or school in Christchurch will be able to be used until consulting engineers have declared it safe. Bishop of Christchurch Barry Jones made this announcement on February 25.
NZ Catholic understands some churches have been severely damaged, but others have escaped relatively unscathed.
Christchurch cathedral parish administrator Msgr Charles Drennan said that safety is a primary issue.
Msgr Drennan, who is bishop-designate for Palmerston North, and other priests have been forced to evacuate the cathedral rectory by authorities.
This is not because of any damage to the building, but because authorities want to clear the central city area of people for security reasons, Msgr Drennan said.
Christchurch’s Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was severely damaged in the earthquake, which struck at 12.51pm local time on February 22.
Authorities have put the latest death toll at 113, with about 200 listed as missing. Among those confirmed dead are two babies.
Those missing include dozens of students and staff at an international English language school, which was in one of the buildings which collapsed.
Unconfirmed reports state several people from the Philippines are among the missing.
Hopes were raised that signs of life had been detected in the destroyed Holy Cross Catholic chapel in central Christchurch, but rescuers could not locate anyone on February 24.
NZ Catholic understands chapel administrator Fr Raymond Schmack assured Bishop Jones that he was the last person to leave the chapel.
At least 20 people are believed to have been killed when the spire of Christchurch’s Anglican Cathedral collapsed.
Bishop of Christchurch Barry Jones celebrated Mass at Our Lady of Victories Parish, Sockburn, in Christchurch on February 23, the day after the earthquake. It was offered for the people of the city and region, that they might know the love and peace of God in the midst of suffering.
The Mass began with the singing of Blessed John Henry Newman’s anthem Praise to the holiest in the height.
In his homily, Bishop Jones reflected on the nature of evil, but said that an earthquake is in no sense a consequence of or a punishment for human behaviour.
Bishop Jones read out a message from Pope Benedict XVI conveying the pontiffs condolences, spiritual closeness and blessings.
Society of Mary provincial for New Zealand, Fr Brian Cummings, SM, said the presbytery of St Mary’s parish, Christchurch North, had been destroyed, with one priest describing it as a complete wreck.
But no one had lived in the building since it suffered damage in the September 2011 earthquake, so a cautious approach had paid off, Fr Cummings said.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand pledged NZ$25,000 towards relief and recovery.
The funds will support the St Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Social Services and other agencies to respond to immediate needs, as well as providing long term recovery and assistance to those affected.
Caritas director Michael Smith said the organisation does not normally respond directly to emergencies within New Zealand, but the scale of the disaster requires an exceptional response.
About half of Christchurch requires fresh water to be trucked in and about a quarter of buildings were still without power late on February 24. Telecommunications are still out in the most severely affected areas. Many areas are without functioning sewerage lines.
Travel is problematic, as many roads have been damaged by liquefaction of underlying earth.
Thousands of homes are uninhabitable, causing many people to leave Christchurch for temporary accommodation in other centres. The New Zealand Government has declared a state of national emergency, for the first time in the nations history.
The Christchurch earthquake is shaping as New Zealands worst disaster. In 1979, 237 passengers and 20 crew were killed when an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed on Mt Erebus in Antarctica.
In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Hawkes Bay in the North Island killed 256 people.
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