Archbishop wants to meet student who damaged church artifacts

Archbishop Jason Gordon wants to meet with the medical student who smashed the revered crucifix and statute of St Paul at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception during Palm Sunday mass.

And Monsignor Christian Pereira said he intends to speak to the student’s mother to “see how that could be facilitated.”

The student in question is not Catholic but Pereira said his mother told him that he had been having “visions and probably responded to what he saw as a vision to do this.”

The damaged crucifix has been removed for repairs and will not be in the usual place of prominence for Good Friday observances, instead, an alternate crucifix would be used.

Pereira told the T&T Guardian yesterday that San Fernando artist Joy Jahoor visited the church and viewed the damage done, “and took away the crucifix, she has some work to do on that.”

It means that the crucifix will not be at the Cathedral for Good Friday when parishioners usually venerate the cross in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus.

But Pereira said, “We have an alternative, not quite the same thing but we will make it do.”

He could not say how long those repairs would take or the cost of the repairs to be undertaken.

Pereira said he asked Jahoor “not to rush and to be careful.” He said she would keep him updated via regular WhatsApp messages. He is confident Jahoor would “do a good job,” given his experience with her when she refurbished the crucifix from the sanctuary at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in San Fernando.

He could not recall how long that refurbishment took nor did he recall the cost.

The attack at the start of Holy Week, according to Pereira should serve as a “wake up call.” He said “it is damage done to the property of the Church, it is a young man who is crying out for help and attention and it is just how we, who are entering into this Holy Week and celebrating the presence of Christ and the work of Christ can become more available and more sensitive to the needs of one another.”

It represents, he said, “a challenge for us to be alert to the deeper needs of our sisters and brothers around us.”

Pereira has offered to counsel the student if required and has also been in touch with the Faculty of Medicine at UWI, St Augustine, which he said is offering the student counselling. In addition, he said he had spoken to the head of the Faculty “to address an extension of his academic programme as he is going through this period of his inability to focus on his exams.”

Around 6.30 am on Palm Sunday as the congregation gathered in the forecourt of the Cathedral for the Blessing of the Palms and the procession, the man who walked in carrying a knapsack began smashing the statue with a pair of dumbells.

The damage was well-advanced before a security officer was able to suppress him and hold him until the police arrived. The man was taken to the Besson Street Station where he was released into the care of his mother.

In the 1970’s, Black Power revolutionaries threw black paint at the statues in the Cathedral. Pereira said he did not think attacks were an indication of any anti-statue attack, but rather represented a part of the “general malaise not to respect other people’s property.”

HISTORY OF CRUCIFIX

The crucifix from the Cathedral made of resin fibreglass and was part of the refurbishment done on the Cathedral in the 1980’s. The feet of Christ in the crucifix were damaged when the medical student using dumbells lashed out at the symbol.

The student also caused extensive damage to the St Paul statue which is of historical value in more ways than one. Paul as the biblical character is revered for his “apostolic teaching,” according to Pereira and in the Cathedral is it part of the original foundation of the Church dating back to 1830, which means the statue is 188 years old.

The St Paul statue which is made of a concrete base with plaster of Paris will have to be repaired in the Cathedral since it requires a crane to move it. The hand holding the wooden sword was damaged and the sword broke off in the attack. Masman Geraldo Viera has offered to look at the statue to determine what assistance he can lend in repairing it.

As yet there is no cost attached to the repairs to the statue and the crucifix because Pereira said “it is very, very hard for an artiste to put a price at the beginning of a project so the cost of material the labour involved I am not sure what it would be like. I would not want to venture to put a price on that.” What is clear though is that the congregation would bear the cost, Pereira said.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)

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