By David Crampton
Religion News Service
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand -- Churches shattered by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake were yielding up their dead on Friday (Feb. 25) as clergy and parishioners grieved and searched for places to worship on Sunday.
The overall death toll from the Feb. 22 quake reached 113, with more than 200 people missing and hundreds injured.
Rescue workers began the grim task of removing bodies from the Anglican Cathedral in Christchurch as hopes of finding survivors faded, according to Anglican Taonga, a local church publication. Search and rescue experts lowered a camera into the damaged nave but found no signs of life. The cathedral's spire crumbled in the quake, collapsing into a stone tower.
As many as 22 people are believed to have been buried in the rubble of the cathedral after the spire collapsed. Cathedral staff were safe, but the church and spire are a major tourist attraction.
Mayor Bob Parker said that the Anglican cathedral would be rebuilt. "There is some discussion that that is a building we could rebuild brick by brick, stone by stone. We need to find some symbols like that," he said, according to Anglican Taonga.
Members of at least 10 damaged Catholic parishes will be celebrating Mass at schools and other Catholic and Anglican parishes. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the city's biggest Catholic church, was damaged beyond repair.
"The bishop has said that no Mass can be conducted in a parish without an inspection, even if there is no damage," said Mike Stopforth, spokesman for Catholic Bishop Barry Jones of Christchurch.