Arsonist sets fire to Cathedral altar

Damage was sustained to the main altar and surrounding at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral - often dubbed 'Australia's mother Church' - after a suspected arsonist lit a fire that sent flames 6 metres into the air yesterday afternoon.

AAP reports that a 34-year-old Nepalese man will face court accused of setting fires at a string of Sydney venues including St Mary's Cathedral. Police arrested the man after they were called to the fire in the cathedral. The man was detained by a member of the public in College Street, near Hyde Park.

Archdiocesan Vicar-General and Cathedral Chancellor Monsignor Brian Rayner said the flames in the cathedral were very high, but tourists inside St Mary's grabbed fire extinguishers, preventing the fire from getting out of control.

"I think it was the response of ... tourists who rushed quickly and put out the fire and fortunately the person who was apprehended by police also wasn't injured," Cathedral chancellor Monsignor Rayner told ABC radio.

In a separate incident at 11.50 am yesterday, police allege the man entered a Flight Centre on Bathurst Street in Sydney's CBD and started another fire, damaging the front counter and surrounding carpet. Earlier in the week, police said the man allegedly poured a liquid onto the floor of a Flight Centre outlet and tried to set it alight.

The Nepalese man, living in Rockdale, was charged with possessing an article with intent to destroy or damage property, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and three counts of maliciously destroying or damaging property with intent to endanger life. He was refused bail and is due to appear in Central Local Court.

Man charged over church arson (The Australian/Australian Associated Press 4/5/05)
Man arrested over cathedral blaze (ABC News 4/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney | St Mary's Cathedral

Firebug attacks: man arrested after cathedral blaze (Sydney Morning Herald 4/5/05)
Man arrested over arson attack on cathedral (Daily Telegraph/Australian Associated Press 4/5/05)
Man charged over church arson (The Advertiser/Australian Associated Press 4/5/05)
Church arsonist blames heavy-metal hero (The Age 5/5/05)
Artist's bald honesty isn't a cardinal sin (Sydney Morning Herald 5/5/05)

5 May 2005