Christchurch, New Zealand (Tuesday, 10/21/2014, Gaudium Press) After the unfortunate earthquake of 2011, Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones released a building resource to help parishes on the architecture of the new churches to be rebuilt.
In the four-page pamphlet entitled “The House of God”, Bishop Jones states: “Generally, modernist styles have not served the liturgy well. In building a new church, parishes should seek architects capable of using traditional styles, but not simply replicating a particular church.”
The bishop also quotes the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “The character and beauty of the church should foster devotion and show forth the holiness of the liturgical mysteries.”
Bishop’s Pastoral Office director Mike Stopforth told NZCatholic “We’ve got a number of churches that need repairing, so we need to maximize our resources. There’s an opportunity for us in the diocese to do things well. That’s why we want to build churches that are beautiful and worthy of worship.”
The guide reads: “A Catholic church is a building dedicated for the worship of God. The Second Vatican Council described it as “the house of God” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 124). It is the place for the celebration of the sacramental liturgy in which Christ as Head of the Church, his Mystical Body, is present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the celebration of the sacraments. It is a sacred place set aside for the sublime prayer of the liturgy and for personal private prayer. It is not a multipurpose building.
The church building itself should reflect the transcendence of God, the beauty of his holiness and the divine truth he has entrusted to his Church. It is a sacred building because it takes on something of a sacramental quality as “the dwelling place of God with humanity”. That is expressed in the rite of dedication when its walls are anointed with the holy oil of chrism. In the church Christ calls together the baptized as the holy People of God to offer with him, through the ministry of the ordained priest, the sacrifice of the Eucharist. The church building is therefore a symbolic structure; its form is to be determined by its purpose. Therefore it should “look like a church”; it should have a noble beauty as befits a sign and symbol of heavenly realities.”
The publication is short and it just sets general principles on the matter. It describes churches as a place for worship and prayer for the celebration of the liturgy and the distribution of the sacraments as well as a place for private devotions. They should be beautiful, in that beauty reveals the nature of the church building in its deepest theological realities; traditional, buildings which are understood to be part of the sacramental system of the rites, showing to us, by way of foretaste through art and architecture the glory and dignity of the New Heaven and the New Earth. Also they ought to be easily recognizable as looking like a Catholic Church.
The Diocese of Christchurch has a strategic committee that evaluates which are the most priority projects in order to leverage resources according to need. “The reality is that we will not restore all of our temples,” the Bishop’s Pastoral Office director said, the reasons are simple: “The need is not here,” and he added “there is not enough money”.
With information from NZCatholic