by KATHLEEN CASEY
CHRISTCHURCH — A rare find shows the hand of God once more in Christchurch.
Squatters took historic and valuable chalices from the forbidden territory of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and stashed them in the nearby Samoan Centre, where police found them before the theft had been discovered.
Of the 11 silver gilt chalices, one was presented in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, one by Pope John Paul II on his 1986 visit and one by Bishop
Matthew Brodie’s mother on his episcopal ordination in 1915.
A number of other chalices were donated by local families and used regularly. Only very recently were construction workers able to enter the cathedral — and the theft was discovered.
Bishop Barry Jones was adamant no one was to enter the cathedral after the February earthquake, because of significant damage. After September 4, 2010, three workers were killed in the Durham St Methodist church while attempting to remove the organ.
The cathedral custodian of artworks, Max Broadbent, was delighted to have the chalices back. “Of course the thieves felt no need to heed the bishop’s directive and, with such a large building, they could have evaded security,” Mr Broadbent said.
The chalices are now in a safe place.
Mr Broadbent said that most of the cathedral’s valuable artworks had been rescued undamaged, including bronze tabernacle doors created by Ria Bancroft and a lifesize crucifix carved by Pat Mulcahy. Sculptor Llew Summers’ stations of the cross are fixed to the walls, but appeared to be intact.
Charges have been laid against the perpetrators, who also had other goods, such as mountain bikes, in their cache.
The Samoan Centre is not safe because the Christchurch Music Centre (formerly the Ferry Road convent) next to it could collapse.