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Churchgoers in Richmond return to Sunday mass after major fire


A Catholic community in Richmond has returned to their church for the first time since a fire broke out earlier this month.

During the evening of Feb. 14, emergency crews were alerted to smoke coming from the tower of St. Philip Parish. During an extended battle, firefighters were able to knock down the blaze, while also minimizing damage to the church below.

In the days that followed, parishioners have been gathering in the church hall, but were given the green light to go back inside the sanctuary this past weekend.

"It's a great relief and a sense of normalcy returning," said Father Bob Poole on Sunday. "To know that we're going to be able to continue to be here in the church is a great, great blessing to us."

The tower has been left unsalvageable – much of it having collapsed in front of the church entrance during the fire, including the parish’s iconic neon cross.

The front entrance remains cordoned off with protective fencing around the tower. The tower access inside the church is also blocked off.

The damaged bell tower of St. Philip Parish on Feb. 15, 2024 in the aftermath of a fire that occurred the night before. (Sam Houpt/CTV News) Congregants were left shaken by the incident, but are in good spirits to be back together in the more than 200-year-old sanctuary.

"You've heard of churches catching fire, but I don't think you ever expect it to happen in your own village or in your own backyard," said Bill Flynn.

"We're very fortunate that it was contained just to the tower and the rest of the church was able to be preserved," said Dean Pierunek.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Church officials say they are convinced the electrical wiring in the tower was at fault.

For now, it is a waiting game with the parish’s insurance to know the exact extent of the damage and the cost to replace the tower and cross.

No injuries were reported following a fire at a church in Richmond, southwest of Ottawa, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (OFS/ X)St. Phillip Elementary School is leading a fundraiser to try and cover some of the out-of-pocket expenses for the repairs.

Meanwhile, Father Poole is remaining optimistic, even using the incident as some sermon inspiration during the Lent season.

"I've been speaking about the phoenix rising from the ashes," he said, "and I believe that's what's going to happen for us as well." Top Stories

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