Police treat Liverpool blaze as 'suspicious' after thousands of pounds smoke damage by Murray White CLERGY and staff at
Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral have pledged that silver jubilee celebrations next month will not be postponed, despite a major fire which this week forced a temporary closure.
Cathedral staff were setting about a sizeable clean-up operation after the blaze in the cathedral's crypt which caused extensive smoke damage to furniture and decorations. Liverpool police are treating the incident as suspicious, Archbishop Derek Warlock of Liverpool greeted news of the fire with "great sadness". But as he left Liverpool to attend the Bishops' Low Week meeting in London the archbishop pledged: "We shall recover from this and the worship of God continues. Our jubilee celebration will go ahead at Pentecost."
The fire comes barely a month after the Liverpool archdiocese was awarded a £500,000 grant from English Heritage for conservation work to the crypt.
A popular historical exhibition featuring a life-size model of the Latin mass rite as celebrated by Cardinal John Heenan was destroyed in the fire, together with candlesticks and a crucifix designed by Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for the crypt opening ceremony in 1933. The crypt survives from Lutyens' original design for Liverpool Cathedral.
Stock from the cathedral bookshop was also lost but the bulk of the damage, which could eventually cost several thousand pounds, was caused by smoke which escaped into the main part of the cathedral.
Assistant Administrator Peter Heneghan explained that banners and decorations throughout the cathedral "will have to be carefully cleaned, but some may have to be destroyed. We are still counting the cost."
Regular visits by school children to the crypt exhibition have been indefinitely cancelled, but daily mass in the crypt chapel separated from the rest of the
crypt by a retaining wall was set to resume when the cathedral reopened at the end of this week.
It is thought the fire started around 8pm last Sunday, but it was not noticed until more than two hours later when nuns in the neighbouring cathedral convent smelled smoke and alerted the fire services.
Police are to interview members of an alcoholic rehabilitation group which met in the cathedral on the evening of the fire.
Chief Inspector Frank Thompson. leading enquires, said a door leading into the crypt from the Cathedral's meeting rooms had been left unlocked, and "it was possible anyone could have walked in during the evening."
He said the fire could have been started deliberately, but it was not beyond consideration that it was caused by an accident.
The Metropolitan Cathedral, affectionately nicknamed Paddy's Wigwam by locals because of its distinctive architecture, will be marking the 25th anniversary of its consecration next month with a major ecumenical celebration,
The service on June 7 is to he televised by the BBC in a special broadcast of Songs of Praise. In contrast to the early beginnings of the cathedral, leaders of Liverpool's other Christian denominations are to be invited to the celebration.
In a reference to the road which connects the Catholic and Anglican cathedrals in the city. Archbishop Warlock said: "We are bound by Hope Street to our Anglican brethren and I am sure that help will be forthcoming."
An ecumenical choir is being brought together to sing at the jubilee by the cathedral's Master of Music, Philip Duffy. A splash of colour will be added to the celebrations by a four-day flower festival, The English Heritage grant was the largest individual award given to an English cathedral this year, and will also pay for structural repairs to the podium on which the cathedral stands.