11/09/2004, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Renovated Catholic Cathedral in downtown Ambon City to accommodate up to 1,500 people

Ambon City (AsiaNews) – Catholics in Ambon City, capital of Indonesia's Maluku (Moluccas) province, are celebrating the renovation of Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral. The work had started on September 19, 2003, when Mgr Pietro Sambi, former Vatican Nuncio in Indonesia, now Apostolic delegate in Jerusalem, laid the first stone.

According to Allo Putunanembun, chairman of the local fundraising committee, renovation was delayed because of a slow flow of donations and prolonged sectarian conflict in the province.

The building itself was built in 1954, but had to be enlarged to accommodate the growing number of people attending Saturday and Sunday functions.

Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral is named after the first Jesuit missioner (1546-1547) who arrived in the Moluccas. It is located in the heart of the city and covers an area of 525 hectares (1,300 acres). It has three floors and is built in three distinct architectural styles: renaissance, local Ambonese and national Indonesian. It contains several statues representing different saints and can accommodate up to 1,500 worshippers.

During renovation work bullet holes were found on the building's roof.

Located in the heart of the conflict-torn province of Maluku, the Cathedral is especially meaningful for local Catholics and Christians.

According to Fr Kees Bohm, from the Amboina Diocese Crisis Centre, the church became a safe heaven for the so-called Agats (Christian child warriors named after a small insect with a mighty sting) during the period of sectarian violence in 2000 and 2001.

The Agats met in the church where volunteers from the Ambon-based Jesuit Refugee Service provided them with educational training and taught tolerance vis-à-vis their Muslim compatriots.

Maluku Governor Karel Albert Rahalu and Mgr Peter Canisius Mandagi, Bishop of Amboina, officiated at the inauguration ceremony. (MH)

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