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Close Call For Priest, Flock

Discussion in 'latest News in Trinidad & Tobago' started by alexk, Aug 24, 2018.

  1. alexk

    alexk Guest


    Roman Catholic priest Father Michael Cockburn and a small congregation attending evening Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception had a close call during Tuesday’s 6.9 earthquake.

    Cockburn had just moved into the sanctuary to put the Eucharist after Communion when one of the church’s finials, shaken out of place by the 90-second quake, fell through the roof and into the church, landing in the sacristy.

    There were about 30 people on hand for the Mass but no one was injured, Vicar General and administrator of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Father Martin Sirju, confirmed yesterday.

    Sirju said Fr Cockburn himself was doing fine and “he does not seem to be traumatised” but they do now have a hole in the roof to repair on top of the other damage sustained to the overall structure.

    Efforts to contact Cockburn were unsuccessful yesterday.

    Yesterday, Fr Sirju said there were no estimates yet for the restoration work to be done at the cathedral. He said the basic integrity of the cathedral “is intact” and structural engineers visited the site and said it had withstood the shock of the quake quite well.

    The cathedral is over 150 years old.

    The “weak point,” according to Sirju, “are those structures jutting out from the sides of the top of the cathedral, the finials”, which he likened to “chimney tops”.

    Sirju thanked the Ministry of Works, Port-of-Spain City Corporation, UDeCoTT, the police and the fire service for responding quickly to assist the church. On Wednesday night, the Works Ministry and UDeCoTT also assisted in removing the piece of the finial on the northern side of the cathedral, which Sirju said “was seriously compromised and could have fallen on people or vehicles”.

    Sirju said they expected to get an estimate of the work to be done on the roof of the church by next week and money for the repairs will be used from the Archbishop’s Appeal Fund.

    “I cannot say if the amount of money would cover it or if it would require more or less,” Sirju said.

    It would be the first work to be done on the roof since the cathedral underwent extensive restorative work just under three years ago.

    The main thing to be done is to fix the roof temporarily, he said and to remove the “treacherous pieces of lumber hanging precariously from the ceiling. When that is removed we can begin the clean-up exercise in the sacristy”.

    Restoring the ceiling, according to Sirju, “is not very specialised. What would be more specialised and what would not be done now is the reconstructing of the finials so that they would be sturdier in case of possible earthquakes.

    The cathedral will remain closed at least for the next week and all masses will be held at the Sacred Heart RC Church on Richmond Street, he said.

    But Sirju said “natural disasters are happening everywhere and we have to prepare ourselves for them”.

    From a biblical point of view, he said, “Every time disaster happens it is time for internal reflection, it is also a ripe opportunity to recognise that life is short and unpredictable and to look at oneself and to better oneself and to better the country as we approach our 56th year of independence.”

    The Trinity Cathedral also suffered damage to four of its finials during the quake. Officials are yet to get an estimate on the cost of repairing the damage done.

    Anglican Bishop Claude Berkely, who is on vacation, told the T&T Guardian he was “thankful to God” that the damage had not been worse.

    He said the Holy Trinity Cathedral would be 200 years old in five years and had sat through many earthquakes.

    Noting there were plans to restore the building for the 200th anniversary, he said: “This will hasten whatever work we have to do.”

    The church, he said, would be looking to the public and the wider community to assist in the repair and restoration.

    Berkely recalled that just under three years ago some of the more decorative elements fell during another earthquake, “so it was not unexpected that some kind of damage would have been done given what happened before”.

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