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Fires damage churches in two states

The St Joseph the Worker Church at Wulguru in the Townsville Diocese was engulfed in flames at 3:00 am yesterday, the fourth Catholic church to be destroyed by fire in the region since May last year.

But police have ruled out arson and suspect an electrical fault led to the blaze.

Parish committee chairman John McCahill told the Townsville Bulletin that the church, which had braved cyclones since 1958, was built with blood, sweat, tears and faith.

Bishop Michael Putney said many parishioners came to attend morning mass minutes after the fire was put out, only to find the church's upper level destroyed. Thankfully, he said, most equipment and valuables stored on the bottom floor were only a "little water damaged".

Meanwhile the Catholic Weekly reports that parishioners at St Francis Xavier's, Arncliffe, in Sydney (pictured) have been shocked by a fire in their church that has caused damage estimated to be worth more than $1 million.

It says the fire, thought to be set by arsonists, broke out in the church last Wednesday night at about 9.30. Only prompt action by the fire brigade saved the historic building. Police are still investigating the cause but there were signs of forced entry to a side door, indicating the work of vandals.

The Parish Priest, Fr Brendan Quirk was on leave at the time. He hurried back to his church on hearing of the blaze. Fr Quirk described the fire as a "sad day for the community", but offered thanks to God that no-one was injured or killed in the fire.

Fire douses celebration (Townsville Bulletin 1/10/04)
$1m blaze a blow to Arncliffe parish (Catholic Weekly 3/10/04)

31 Oct 2004