BY JOE JENKINS
CATTIOLICS IN Oklahoma City last week celebrated the reopening and rededication of St Joseph's Cathedral, which was badly damaged by the Oklahoma bomb in 1994.
St Joseph's suffered $3 million worth of damage in the blast, which lifted the roof several inches and blew out seven stained-glass windows which depicted the saints. The cathedral office and rectory were destroyed.
The most urgent repairs required included the replastering of the ceiling, fixing the steeple and supporting beams and rebuilding a brick wall. Skilled craftsmen used broken fragments of glass and windows to replicate the damaged decor.
Archbishop Eusebius Beltran celebrated Mass in the cathedral and prayed for the victims, their families and the survivors of the terrorist bombing of the federal building. He also thanked Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, a Catholic, for his support and bravery in the wake of the disaster.
Archbishop Beltran said in his homily: "We come together today in solemn but joyful and grateful assembly.
"The completion of the repairs and renovations to this old cathedral is a positive step in the healing of the wounds of the bombing." After the homily, the rededication rite continued with a litany of saints and prayers. Archbishop Beltran anointed the altar with the sacred chrism while concelebrating priests assisted him by anointing the walls of the cathedral.
The refurbished St Joseph's was filled to capacity for the Mass. Latecomers could view it on closedcircuit television in the parish hall.
Jack Nashert, president of Nashert Constructors, the firm that has rebuilt the cathedral, said last week: "St Joseph Old Cathedral is the first of the extensively damaged churches in downtown Oklahoma City to reopen. "Certain odds and ends won't be finished until the end of the year, but it will be a state-of-the-art facility. I feel extremely privileged to do this work. Despite the tragic circumstances, the work itself has been a labour of love and lots of fun."
The blast which sent shock waves across middle America — unfamiliar with the desolation caused by terrorism was caused by an enormous device using explosive material made from fertiliser. It was planted by a survivalist group, one of many across the United States who oppose the federal system and refuse to pay federal taxes, while upholding their right to bear arms as "militiamen".