Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin, SM, has announced the construction of a $126 million cathedral parish precinct, that will see a new Catholic cathedral built in the heart of the city by 2025.

The diocesan construction project is part of the $500 million “North of the Square” project, a joint venture between Christchurch diocese, property developer Carter Group and Crown rebuild company Ōtākaro.

“After we realised that it wasn’t going to be financially feasible to restore the Cathedral at Barbadoes Street, there was then a discussion about what we might do next,” Bishop Martin said in a video posted to the diocesan website.

“One of the options that I said to our [diocesan] property people is:  why don’t we have a look and see if we could come a little closer to town than we are at the moment? And so, [the property] people looked at that and this site became available. Our property people worked with Philip Carter and a number of the other owners to look at the possibility of establishing this as the site for the new cathedral,” he explained.

Bishop Martin said they need to raise at least $30 million initially.

“We have some insurance money that had been set aside for the cathedral and so we’ll use that. Also, we’ll look again at our other assets and, if we have surplus assets, we’ll need to realise those as well,” he said.

The bishop said he is looking at the possibility of selling the land where the current cathedral sits on Barbadoes Street.

The proposed cathedral parish precinct will be built adjacent to Victoria Square, on the site bordered by Armagh Street, Colombo Street, Cambridge Terrace and Manchester Street.

It will include the new cathedral, which will be able to accommodate 1000 people, a new St Mary’s primary school, as well as offices for the diocese, residential accommodation for priests and the bishop and a multi-storey car parking building.

The cathedral’s project cost is estimated at $85 million, the school at $11 million and the bishop’s and priests’ residence as well as the car park building at $30 million.

 The precinct is expected to be completed by 2025.

“My hope is that in five years’ time, the precinct will be built. That is my hope, but it will depend on our ability to fundraise,” the bishop said. “The priority is getting on with the design, so we get a clear idea of exactly what we are proposing.”

Bishop Martin said the move is really meant to put Catholic life in the heart of the city.

“For us, it is really being in the heart of the city, being present . . . , firstly, for our own religious purposes, for Mass and other things,” he explained.

“Secondly, we need to be able to play our part in the life of the city and to be a place of welcome for people to come and pray or just rest in this place and [be] a sign for us that Christianity in Christchurch is a really important part of life in society and we want to play our part.”

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