Gizo church wrecked by 2007 earthquake rebuilds, remains source of solace

The rebuilt St. Peter’s Cathedral in Gizo

St. Peter’s Cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Gizo is a reminder of what happened 10 years ago after a massive earthquake struck Western Province — and an example of resilience.

The church, which now stands tall in the provincial capital was rebuilt after the 8.1-magnitude earthquake damaged the old cathedral.

Monica Gila, a retired registered nurse who has been looking after the church since 2004, was there when the earthquake hit in the early hours of April 2, 2007.

She came to the church for service on that Monday morning.

“My auntie and I were standing at the church chatting, then all of a sudden the earthquake began,” Mrs Gila said.

“I ran into a room inside the church. When I entered the room, there was a big shake. I couldn’t get out of the room because I was so scared.”

When the shaking slowed, Mrs Gila ran outside and up to the hills.

“As I ran, I looked back and saw part of the building was already destroyed — it was already down.”

“I said, ‘oh, our church is dead’.”

Three days later, Mrs Gila came back to resume her duties in the partially destroyed church.

“There was nowhere else to pray,” she said. “I arranged the seats at the middle of the building closer to the altar for our services.”

The congregation continued to hold services in the building until a new church was built in 2009.

Bishop Luciano Capelli was appointed to his current position soon after the earthquake struck in 2007, and he chose to demolish the old church and rebuild it after some consultation. He said it was a tough decision.

“We wanted to save the old one, but it was not possible.” Bishop Capelli said. “So we rebuilt this beautiful new one with the help of a group of volunteers.”

The church raised about $1 million to complete the church.

It took the group of volunteers three months to put up the structure. In a year, it was complete.

Monica Gila inside the new church

The church is now bigger and elevated one metre above the ground with concrete flooring.

Some of the materials were found locally, others came from overseas.

The roof of the church was made from small pieces of timber glued together from Austria.

The tiles came from Italy. The stained glass was made in the Philippines.

Tourists visit the church to see the windows painted with pictures of the seven days of creation.

“The colour of the stained glass is still very intense,” Bishop Capelli said. “It’s beautiful.”

Though its features have changed, the church still supports the congregation as it did in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“When they come to church they should at least find peace,” Bishop Capelli said.

By Kikiva Tuni 

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