All Christchurch parishes closed until engineers inspect them

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (CNS) — No Catholic church or school in Christchurch will be used until engineers have declared it safe.

Christchurch Bishop Barry P. Jones announced the measure Feb. 25, three days after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked New Zealand’s second-largest city, causing more than 100 deaths and widespread damage.

The NZ Catholic newspaper reported that some churches in the quake zone were severely damaged while others escaped relatively unscathed. Bishop-designate Charles Drennan, administrator of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, said safety is the primary concern. The cathedral sustained severe damage and may not be usable again, said engineers who inspected the building.

Bishop-designate Drennan, named to head the Palmerston North Diocese the day of the earthquake, and other priests were asked to leave the cathedral rectory by safety officials for security reasons as authorities cleared much of the central city. Authorities placed the death toll at 113, with about 220 people missing Feb. 25.

Among the missing were dozens of students and staff at an international English language school, which was in one of the buildings that collapsed. Rescuers’ hopes were raised that signs of life had been detected in the destroyed Holy Cross Catholic chapel in central Christchurch, but rescuers were unable to locate anyone Feb. 24.

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