Historic Copmanhurst Church Destroyed

April 28, 2008 10:44 am

The historic church of St. John of the Cross was vandalised and set alight on Saturday April 19. Young vandals are believed to be responsible. The following report was published by the Grafton Daily Examiner on April 20. ‘ TWO Clarence Valley boys have been questioned by police and a third is sought after a historic Copmanhurst church was vandalised and torched on Saturday afternoon. It is alleged the boys vandalised and broke statues inside St John of the Cross Catholic Church, before setting the interior alight. Fire engulfed the rear of the 126-year-old church at 2pm, damaging its wooden interior and destroying a historically-valuable stained glass window. Examination of the church by crime scene investigators found the fire was deliberately lit. Police said two boys, aged 10 and 13, were arrested at 2.30pm yesterday in connection with the arson but were later released pending enquiries. A third boy was sought for questioning last night. Parish priest Father Rex Hackett went to the church after being told of the arson on Saturday. He was shocked by what he found. “The place is trashed,” he said. “It’s been totally and utterly gutted inside. The external building is still standing but the inside has been totally gutted. “I couldn’t believe the church could be so damaged by young children. The church is gutted and I am also gutted,” Father Hackett said. The church had recently undergone a $65,000 restoration, the bulk of which was destroyed in the fire. Also destroyed was a stained glass window depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus the only one of its kind in Australia. Father Hackett was emotional as he spoke of the damage to the old church. The land it was built on was donated by his family and he went to Sunday mass there when visiting as a child. He said St John’s built in 1882 was the most historic church in the region and the oldest being used in the Diocese of Lismore. “Since 1941 when I was born that church has been part of my experience … it’s very, very emotional for me and my family,” Father Hackett said. “A great part of the history of the Clarence Valley has now been lost.” The historic church was featured in the Diocesan Journal ‘ Catholic Life’ September 2005 Vol.3 No.3