Reconsecration of Irish church destroyed by fire

 St Joseph's Church, Ballinagar, Co Offaly, in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin was reconsecrated yesterday. The church, which was originally built in 1837, was destroyed by a fire on 12 February 2004 and just over two years later has been restored to its former glory. The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Most Rev Jim Moriarty officiated at the service attended by around 400 people. In his address, Bishop Moriarty said: "The fire which destroyed Saint Joseph's caused a moment initially of "grief and anguish" as people saw this building, which was the sanctuary of special memories for them, destroyed by the flames. For some time afterwards, there was that sad moment when people were exiled from this place of welcome and worship. However, the flames that engulfed that building did not overcome the sense of faith and hope in the heart of this community, but, rather ironically, begot a new sense of the meaning of what "the Church" is - a community that puts its faith in Jesus Christ and responds to his call with enthusiasm and generosity. "As we re-open this Church today, we celebrate once more the "joys and hopes" of this community. That joy and hope has its foundation in the invitation of Jesus Christ to follow him and to bear witness to his Kingdom in our world. This Church building stands proudly here to do just that - to bear witness to the faith and generosity of a people who come here in answer to God's call to enter into a relationship with him." Bishop Moriarty paid tribute to the priests of the parish Fr John Stapleton and Mgr Thomas Coonan for their outstanding contribution to the restoration work. He also thanked the members of the Parish Pastoral Council, the parishioners and all who worked so hard to bring about the restoration. The Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto sent a message to the people of Killeigh in which he said: "When on 12 February 2004, St Joseph's Church was ravaged by fire, it must have seemed that a sacred place in the Parish of Killeigh, where men and women have worshipped and prayed since penal times, had been destroyed and was gone forever. And yet, from the ashes of the old the new has arisen; and today with your Bishop and sheltered again by strong walls and a stout roof to bear witness to your great faith and generosity, you gather once more to give glory to God and adore his living presence in your midst. "Today as you return to this church, restored to its former beauty and echoing to your hymns of praise and thanksgiving, I invoke on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, God's blessing upon your community, and I pray that, with Christ as the keystone of your lives you may become more and more, in the words of St Peter, "living stones making a spiritual house" (1 Pe 2:5)." The Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council, Mrs Breda O'Connor said: "This is a truly glorious and mystical moment in our lives.... I would like to especially welcome Bishop Jim Moriarty here today. The Sunday immediately following that devastating night in February 2004 when we watched our beautiful church go up in flames, Bishop Jim came and celebrated Mass with us as an expression of his solidarity and support for us. Now today he is here to share in our joy on this glorious day. I stand here today representing all of the people of this parish and as such it is an honour for me to say: "People of Ballinagar, young and old - we hand you back your church!" Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

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