While efforts to rebuild the Sacred Heart Church press ahead, vandals are making off with pieces of the cast iron fence and creating a setback for the ongoing works.
Manfred De Santos of the rebuilding committee spoke to Stabroek News about the issue of vandalism and the efforts to rebuild the church.
“We have just had a meeting with one of the two contractors – the one doing the main construction of the church – and we are awaiting an estimate of the façade which is made up of mainly the two towers. Once that estimate is obtained then we propose to start that phase of the work as well. But a major concern to us at this time is vandalism,” he said.
De Santos said that large portions of the cast iron front fence have disappeared and “we don’t know who is responsible and as you know cast iron is very expensive and almost irreplaceable.”
De Santos said there were no security arrangements in place since security is very costly, “But we are looking at that at the moment.”
He said that the rebuilding is something of a struggle with the building committee acquiring resources as it goes along. “We are at about $38 million. We have an estimate for the rebuilding of the church and a small presbytery for about $80 million. We have already spent about $20 million of that on what has been done so far.
“The funds keep coming, albeit slowly. But hopefully we could complete the construction of the church before the end of the year. We were hoping to do so before the Feast of the Sacred Heart which is in June, but at this point in time I don’t see it being possible,” he said.
De Santos said that the church was dedicated at a Christmas Eve mass “and if we cannot complete it for the Feast of the Sacred Heart we are hoping to do so for Christmas.”
Around 8.50 am on Christmas Day in 2004, electric bulbs in the crib set up to recreate the nativity scene had sparked fire, which caught onto combustible material and within minutes the entire church, the presbytery and school were gutted. About 60 mostly elderly worshippers were attending the service at the time.
The fire quickly spread and gutted neighbouring buildings such as the Kirpalani bond and a customs brokerage to the north of the Sacred Heart Primary school, which was also destroyed. Twenty vehicles in the King Solomon Shipping compound located south of the school were also destroyed and the building was scorched. The building which housed the then Universal Airlines and other businesses to the north of the church were also scorched. Records from the church and school were said to have been completely destroyed.