[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] The Bishop of Mauritius and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop Ian Ernest, has helped launch an appeal to restore the Cathedral of St James – the mother church of the Diocese of Mauritius, which has been closed for the past year.
The Archbishop, who will take up his new role as the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome later this year, said: “The cathedral has been used as a place of prayer since 1832. Today we have the opportunity to give a second birth to this holy place which is part of the national heritage of Port Louis. We pray God’s help is with us to discover the generosity within us, so that together future generations are able to discover the diligence with which we have taken care of this holy place which belongs to all of us.”
The appeal aims to raise funds towards the restoration of the 160-year-old building which has gradually been falling into disrepair with damage to its roofs and internal structures.
Originally built as a Powder Magazine in 1740, the cathedral was constructed during the French occupation of Mauritius and was later given to the Anglican community on the island. Rather than build a new church, the building was altered to incorporate a worship place and church steeple.
Archdeacon of Mauritius, Stenio Andre, said: “I have spent nearly 24 years here in the cathedral, I’ve seen many changes. The church used to be a powder gun mill. This background brings a spirit of strength which still resonates in this church today.”
The building was so strong it withstood various storms and hurricanes and was used as a shelter for the local community. Today it continues to offer help to the marginalised around the city.
Dean of St James Cathedral, Bryen Adeline, said: “For the past few years we have had problems with the roofs leaking when it rains a lot. We also have termites in the building and certain areas have suffered damage making it hazardous for the public. In May 2018, we closed the building to the public to start the renovation work. We recently did an evaluation and based on that we will be able to find out the time and cost of the renovation.”
To raise awareness about the restoration appeal the cathedral has made a short video about the cathedral with comments from the clergy and the congregation on why it’s an important building to each of them.
The congregation of St James are currently worshipping in a nearby hall, but their hope is that they will be able to return to the cathedral as soon as possible.