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Pell finally consecrates church after 150 years

Archbishop George Pell on Saturday belatedly consecrated St John's Church, in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg, which had escaped earlier consecration due to an oversight.

Parish Priest Fr Anthony Girolami told The Age that about 25,000 baptisms, weddings and funerals have been performed at St John's. Heidelberg parish, set aside as an outpost of Port Phillip district in 1851, is the fourth-oldest parish in Victoria. More than 80 nuptials are held there each year.

Fr Girolami insisted that all ceremonies held in the past were recognised in the eyes of the Church: "By their very nature, they are a moment of grace. Whether a church is consecrated or not doesn't impact on the validity of these sacramental celebrations."

Fr Girolami discovered the oversight while researching his parish's history several years ago. Before the liturgical reforms of the 1960s, a church couldn't be consecrated until it was fully paid for. Many churches were therefore simply "blessed" in several stages of their completion.

In the early 1970s that Church authorities decided that as soon as a church was completed, it could be consecrated but with the passing of time, St John's spiritual state had been forgotten.

The St John's consecration is one of the last official duties of George Pell as Archbishop of Melbourne. Archbishop Pell's thanksgiving mass wil take place tomorrow evening in St Patrick's Cathedral. He is scheduled to take up duties as Archbishop of Sydney on 10 May.

The Age