Community leaders in the NSW southern city of Goulburn are outraged after vandals broke into an historic old Catholic church undergoing major restoration and caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to the building.
A police investigation is underway into the overnight attack on St Peter’s and Paul’s in Goulburn on 24 September.
The church was about to mark its 150th anniversary on 30 November and is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register, having been the cathedral church for the former Diocese of Goulburn from 1871 to 1969.
Parish Priest Fr Joshy Kurien estimates the vandals caused 70 thousand dollars worth of damage, after breaking three stained glass windows in the church and throwing a tin of gold-coloured paint over 100 year old parquetry flooring which was undergoing restoration.
“Fr Joshy joined parish volunteers in spending a few hours on the day after the attack scrubbing the floors to try and protect the parquetry.”
They also stole up to four metres of copper downpipe, which then led to water leaking into the cathedral, causing further damage to flooring and painting on the walls which had just been completed.
Fr Joshy joined parish volunteers in spending a few hours on the day after the attack scrubbing the floors to try and protect the parquetry.
“This project was a big challenge to start with, as we started it about a year ago during the COVID pandemic and now we’re determined to get all the repair work done as best we can before the scheduled reopening date on 30 November”, he told The Catholic Weekly.
“Fortunately we have security cameras installed and we have footage of the crime which we’ve handed over to police”.
Fr Joshy said it is very fortunate that some other aspects of the restoration work on the cathedral, including new Stations of the Cross and the altar are undergoing work off-site and were spared from the vandals.
The head of the cathedral’s restoration committee, parishioner and former NSW Senator, Ursula Stephens said the project has been planned by successive parish priests over four decades and the whole community is in deep shock that vandals would target the church in this way.
“We are conscious that we are custodians of a very significant piece of Australian history. This is the first diocese that was created outside Sydney and this is the mother church of that diocese which extended right down to the Victorian border. We are indeed very much a city of churches in Goulburn which makes this vandalism especially heart-breaking”, Ms Stephens said.
“We’re hoping to hear back on our application next year in time for the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on 23 June 2023.”
She said an application has been sent to the Vatican for the restored church to be declared Australia’s sixth minor basilica.
It would then join the likes of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in an elite group of churches to be given that title.
“We’re hoping to hear back on our application next year in time for the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on 23 June 2023”.
Donations are welcome towards the Restoration Appeal for St Peter’s and Paul’s old cathedral in Goulburn. Find more information here: https://www.sppoc.com.au/donate/