Ongoing dampness prompts immediate closure of Catholic church in Wellington

Parishioners of St Andrew's Church were notified during Sunday mass that, from June 26, their place of worship would be ...
RUBY MACANDREW/FAIRFAX NZ

Parishioners of St Andrew's Church were notified during Sunday mass that, from June 26, their place of worship would be closed indefinitely.

Ongoing health and safety concerns have forced the closure of a Catholic church in the Wellington suburb of Newlands.

Parishioners of St Andrew's Church were notified during Sunday mass on June 25 that from the following day their place of worship would be closed indefinitely.

A sign on the now-locked church door  said  the church had been identified as being a risk to the public following "a specially commissioned building and maintenance report" that would be published "shortly."

Ongoing issues with dampness and leaks are to blame for the sudden closure.
RUBY MACANDREW/FAIRFAX NZ

Ongoing issues with dampness and leaks are to blame for the sudden closure.

"The full force of winter has intervened [and] there is danger from wet and slippery floors. There is also a general dampness which can silently affect the health of parishioners," the sign stated.

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Wellington City Council building resilience manager Steve Cody had received a handful of inquiries about the church but said the council had not instructed it to be closed at any point.

Chairman of the parish council Denzil D'Mello, parish priest Father Peter Fitzgibbon, assistant priest Father Sebastian ...
CAITLIN SALTER/FAIRFAIX NZ

Chairman of the parish council Denzil D'Mello, parish priest Father Peter Fitzgibbon, assistant priest Father Sebastian Vandanamthadathil, council member Eustie Kamath and assistant priest Father Doug Shepherd in 2016 when the three churches merged to form the St Francis of Assisi Ohariu Parish (file photo)

The building is not – and has never been – on the council's earthquake-prone buildings list and had therefore not been yellow-sticked.

Churchgoer Stephanie D'Mello said while the sudden closure had come as a shock it was not entirely surprising given the condition of the building.

"The roof is bad and it leaks down into the middle of the church. We've known about that for a while but we wanted the opportunity to help get it repaired because it's a busy church."

Parishioners of St Andrews Church, Newlands, were shocked to be greeted with an unsigned, undated notice advising that ...
SUPPLIED

Parishioners of St Andrews Church, Newlands, were shocked to be greeted with an unsigned, undated notice advising that the church would be closed from the next day.

Over the last couple of years, the fate of the parish and the church has been discussed in many meetings, culminating in the amalgamation of St Ben's in Khandallah, St Peter and  Paul's in Johnsonville and St Andrew's in February last year.

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The three Catholic churches formed the St Francis of Assisi Ohariu Parish, a partnership that was proving beneficial in this latest situation with Newlands parishioners able to attend Mass at St Peter and  Paul's in Johnsonville where additional weekend sessions would be held.

However, D'Mello worried that the Johnsonville church wouldn't be big enough to accommodate everyone.

"We've been there before and it gets really busy and parking can be a nightmare."

Church leaders are hoping to meet with Cardinal John Dewto look at options on how to get the church reopened as soon as possible.

 - Stuff

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