Bishop says she is focus for anger

12 April 2013

by a staff reporter

THE Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, has spoken of the personal attacks that she has suffered over plans to demolish the city's cathedral, which was damaged by an earthquake (News, 4 November 2011).

Bishop Matthews has spoken of how she became the "lightning rod" for people's anger after the series of earthquakes that destroyed homes and the cathedral, in 2011.

In an interview with a local newspaper, she said: "It's been a time of raw emotions right across the city. I keep saying it, but I still believe it: you can't get angry at an earthquake. It's just not satisfying. I know that people have been shaking their fists at the heavens since time immemorial, but you can't kick God and you can't kick an earthquake. You can weep and you can shout, but you're more likely to focus on a human being, and so I've become one of the lightning rods, and along with that has come a number of accusations. And it's actually become quite personal."

Bishop Matthews, a Canadian, was accused on air and in print of not understanding the people of the city. She said: "There was some of that 'It's time that you went home.' Well, I'm here to do something I feel called to do by God, and I do it to the best of my ability. I'm not for a moment saying I always get it right. None of us always get it right."

The diocese has released three separate designs for the cathedral, including restoration, a reinterpretation of the neo-Gothic cathedral in modern materials, and a completely new building. Restoration of the 19th-centry cathedral would be the most expensive option, and could take up to 22 years to complete. Bishop Matthews would not be drawn on which was her preferred choice. But architecture critics from around the world have criticised the modern design, calling it "bizarre".

A senior curator of contemporary architecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kieran Long, said: "If I had to choose now, I would strongly advocate rebuilding the original cathedral. . . It would speak of continuity.''

A judge ruled this week that insurance money cannot be used to build a transitional cardboard cathedral for the city.

The owners of the Cathedral, Church Property Trustees, had earmarked up to $NZ4 million ($US3.39 million) of the insurance payout to fund the cardboard cathedral, which is scheduled to open late next month.


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