Cathedral 'left to die with no dignity'

DAMAGED: The Christ Church Cathedral.
DAMAGED: The Christ Church Cathedral.

The Christ Church Cathedral is ''being left to die with no dignity'' because of ongoing legal wrangles about its fate, Bishop Victoria Matthews says.

In a statement released this morning, she said there was ''frustration and disappointment'' as new images from inside the cathedral show items of sacred and historical value had suffered further extensive damage from exposure to the weather, continued aftershocks and birds.

''It is gutting and upsetting to see that due to the on going legal process we are unable to retrieve treasured items from inside the Cathedral and make it safe. A building that glorified God, that was our 'mother church,' we are now unable to give it the dignity it deserves," she said.

A camera was flown into the cathedral this week. While it was good to see the images, she said the loss of history was hard to take.

Matthews said it must always be remembered that people are first rather than buildings and lives were lost and people seriously injured in the February 2011 earthquake. Alongside that was the loss of homes and treasured buildings.

"I am glad we deconsecrated the cathedral as what is occurring now is an act of violence against a building and the stories and history that it contains of Canterbury and of the Christian faith.

"A building that was used to tell and glorify God, and was a place of hope and life for the community, is now wasting away a slow death and that is no way to treat a once sacred building.''

Inside the cathedral it is clear to see ongoing damage from aftershocks, the cathedral being open to the weather as well as birds, Matthews said.

''The images show further damage to items of historical value such as the tiles that show the arrival of the first four ships to Canterbury as well as the pulpit that has scenes from the life of the first bishop of Christchurch depicted in stone. The organ is also clearly damaged but the extent is unknown until the cathedral can be made safe for entry to retrieve the items.''

Cathedral leaders have decided to largely demolish the cathedral, leaving only walls two to three metres high.

Great Christchurch Buildings Trust chair Jim Anderton, who is taking legal action against cathedral leaders to stop demolition, accused Matthews of "double speak''.

"When she talks about preserving the dignity of the church and treating the building with respect what she actually means is she wants to destroy it. Since when is destruction dignity? The building does not have to be destroyed,'' he said.

"If the church had been responsive to many in the community who saw a way to restore the cathedral that could have been achieved by now without the waste of time and money involved in legal action.''

The Press