The Roman Catholic archbishop of Halifax and Yarmouth is disappointed with Halifax regional council's decision to designate Saint Patrick's Church on Brunswick Street a heritage property.
"We're faced with a deteriorating building," Archbishop Anthony Mancini said Friday. "With the designation … it makes any kind of action to preserve this worship space very difficult to do."
Until recently, the congregation thought the building had been designated 30 years ago, he said. Because of a clerical error involving the street address, the church rectory was designated instead.
So a heritage hearing was held and regional councillors were asked to fix the mistake this week.
A diocese representative asked council to vote down the recommendation so emergency repairs could be done — without adhering to heritage standards so costs could be reduced.
"There are safety concerns that worry us," Mancini said.
$1.5M in repairs needed
Chunks of granite recently fell off the side of the church. According to engineering consultants who inspected the property, the building needs $1.5 million in immediate repairs just to stabilize it.
But regional councillors worried that not designating the property could eventually lead to its demolition. A municipal evaluation gave Saint Patrick's a very high rating on the heritage value scale.
"The inside of this church rivals some of the basilicas they have in Europe," Peninsula North Coun. Jennifer Watts said Friday. "It's just beautiful."
Councillors questioned how much money the diocese could save by eliminating the municipal designation since the church already has provincial heritage status. A number of councillors also wondered if members of the congregation were even aware of the diocese's request.
Church's future in doubt
Although the building has retained its heritage status, the future of the church is still in doubt.
The archbishop said the diocese does not have enough money for repairs. The congregation will soon lose its "pastoral care," and Mancini said he is not sure he will be able to find a replacement.
"I make the distinction between the parish and the community of faith, and the church building," he said.
"Those two things are not to be equated."
Mancini said he plans to meet with the members of the congregation in the next few weeks.