Arson suspected in Melbourne church fire

Arson squad detectives are investigating the suspicious fire that devastated the 156-year-old St Joseph's Church in Melbourne's Collingwood yesterday but the parish community is making an Easter commitment to resurrect the church.

The Herald-Sun reports that the $2.5 million blaze began soon after 6am, flames leaping 30m as they fed off gases and wood inside the building.

Metropolitan Fire Brigade Commander Terry Kimpton said it took 45 firefighters to contain the fire.

Priests in the church's presbytery woke to find the inferno raging outside their door as firefighters arrived.

The presbytery, church hall and a primary school on the same property were lucky to escape unscathed.

Fr Jim Acreman told the Herald-Sun that parish priests were asleep as the blaze took hold.

"It was shock, horror, all of the above - a bit numbing in many ways," he said.

"There is so much history in that church. It's been a large part of many people's lives."

But Fr Acreman said they would rebuild the church and use a hall for services in the meantime.

Many parishioners were shocked to see the extensive damage. Tuan Nguyen said the Vietnamese community had adopted the church.

"Most Vietnamese immigrants came to Richmond, Collingwood and Brunswick," he said.

But the church's 300-strong Vietnamese parishioners have lost irreplaceable religious relics related to a canonised Vietnamese martyred priest, St John Hoan, according to the Age.

"It's hard to make it sink in," said Anita Carmody, who travelled from Ivanhoe after hearing of the fire. She taught at the adjoining St Joseph's School in the 1970s and the funerals of both her parents were held at the church, she said.

Offers of help have already poured in to church officials, including from the Collingwood Football Club.

Fire guts a church (Sun-Herald, 3/4/07)

Parishioners face a not-so-good Friday (The Age, 3/4/07)

Melbourne church fire upsets community (Sydney Morning Herald, 3/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Joseph's Parish, Collingwood

Melbourne church on fire (CathNews, 2/4/07)

3 Apr 2007