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Old churches with a Good News story to tell

Cebu priests urged to seek renovation advice to avoid destroying educational treasures

Old churches with a Good News story to tell
The Metropolitan Cathedral in Cebu undergoes a paint job. reporter, Cebu City

January 21, 2011

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The preservation of old churches, if done correctly, can promote catechism in communities, according to a heritage expert in the central Philippine province of Cebu. “The [building], as an instrument of the Church, is part of catechetical education,” said archeology professor Jojo Bersales, member of the Archdiocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage in the Archdiocese of Cebu. The commission is encouraging parish priests to do “regular housekeeping and clearing” but want them to submit their plans for renovation work to the archdiocese. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines earlier placed cast iron markers on the Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar) Church in Sibonga. The church has depictions, painted in 1924, of the Creation and the crucifixion on the ceiling. Ambeth Ocampo, commission chairman, said the markers help “history to remain with us.” Some parish priests try to renovate their churches without consulting the archdiocese or the heritage commission, Bersales lamented. “There are churches that have covered artwork with white paint. This artwork could have been used to teach children the story of creation during Flores de Mayo,” Bersales said. He said regular housekeeping is required of priests, adding that only water and cotton should be used to clean old religious items. Statues of saints, candelabras and vestments can be considered tangible heritage items, Bersales said. “When people get angry when you change a church, it’s because they know the value of the church more than [priests] do,” he continued. The commission recently launched a project, “Walk of Bells,” to preserve old bells in Cebu churches. “Even if the bells are cracked and broken, they still have value for us,” said Bersales. They played a role in the evangelization of people, he said. “If you hear the bells, you are part of the Church. And bells are rung for people to attend catechism classes.” Related reports Cardinal’s smile a legacy Cebu will not forget Heritage experts seek views on church project PV12954.1637
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