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Parishioners forgive burglar who burned their church

Parishioners in the north Queensland town of Bowen say they have no animosity towards the man convicted of torching their century-old Catholic church.

The ABC says that Ricky Bilson, 21, has been jailed for six years for accidentally burning down St Mary's Church in 2002.

Building committee chairman Terry Pilcher says parishioners are channelling their energies into making up the shortfall of the building's replacement cost.

"There's been no anger or animosity towards the person - we're waiting to see what the price is going to be to rebuild this church and what the shortfall will be and we're still fundraising and we've got a lot of fundraising to do," he said.

Bowen Shire Council has approved plans for a new church, with construction due to start early in the new year.

The Townsville Bulletin reported yesterday that the fire was started accidentally by Bilson - described as a "self-confesed serial burglar" - using a cigarette lighter in his search for items to steal. Bilson entered St Mary's church about 11 pm on 5 May last year, seeking to steal any money left on the premises. He used the lighter in the cupboard used to hang vestments in the sacristy.

Church-goers forgive man for blaze (ABC North Queensland 4/11/04)
Burglar's bungle burnt church (Townsville Bulletin 3/11/04)

Fire destroys 92 year old north Queensland church (CathNews 7/5/03)
Diocese of Townsville | St Mary's Parish, Bowen

5 Nov 2004