Masses to Continue Despite Holy Name Fire

Cathedral damage assessed

Thursday, Feb 5, 2009  |  Updated 6:50 AM PDT
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Water Dripping Inside Holy Name Cathedral

Water Dripping Inside Holy Name Cathedral

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Parishioners Saddened, Resilient After Holy Name Fire

Holy Name parishioners say they are saddened by the early morning fire, but look forward to Mass there again soon.

Holy Name Lorber

Flames shot from the roof of Holy Name Cathedral early Wednesday morning.
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Parish officials say daily Masses will resume tomorrow near the landmark Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, one day after the church was hit by an early-morning fire.

The Reverend Dan Mayall says Masses will be held in the auditorium or the club room of the parish center, both located just north of the cathedral.
  
The cathedral has a busy schedule of Masses, with four to six celebrated each day.
  
A Boy Scout award ceremony scheduled for Sunday has been postponed.
  
Cardinal Francis George says the fire is a tragedy but he's grateful that the damage wasn't worse.
  
The early-morning fire burned for more than two hours, severely damaging the attic of the cathedral and leaving gaping holes in the roof of the 134-year-old building.

Sometime before 6 a.m., flames were seen jumping  from various points of the building. Firefighters arrived at 6:02 a.m. and the fire shooting out of the building's roof was replaced by plumes of white smoke by about 6:25 a.m. Firefighters continued to douse the roof with water on the bitterly cold Chicago morning.

Larry Langford, a spokesman for Chicago Fire Depatment, said the fire did not spread from the roof of the building and the fire damage was contained to the back of the building.

Fire Cmdr. Will Knight confirmed that the fire was located in the cockloft, or pitched area of the roof.  The fire burned above where the church's sprinkler system operated.

Rev. Mayall said about 11 priests and nuns were in the residential portion of the cathedral when the fire started. All of them were safely evacuated.  He said, too, that the "blessed sacrament" was removed dafely from the sanctuary.

Mayall said that he was saddened by the fact that "we're back at square one," after extensive renovations that have been done recently.

The cardinal arrived at the scene and entered the cathedral shortly before 8 a.m.

Afterwards, he thanked the media for their coverage of the morning fire, and said that while there is considerable damage to the roof. "Chicago is good at bouncing back from fires,," he said.  "I think that we'll bounce back from this."

He reassured Catholics across Chicago that necessary repairs will be done as soon as possible.  The cathedral was closed for about six months during previous renovation efforts.

George said that one firefighter was injured with a sprained back during the operation and asked for prayers for his full recovery. 

When asked what he saw inside the church, he said, "It looks like a cathedral when you walk in," until you notice the icicles on the pews and altar.

Mayall said that renovation work is still being done in the area where the fire appeared to have started.  The cardinal said, however, that after talking with fire officials, "They're puzzled as to how it started."

The original Holy Name was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire and the parish rebuilt, opening the new cathedral in 1875.

Restoration and repair work was still underway at Holy Name, after engineers found structural weaknesses in the roof last year.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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