Just before day broke today, a raging fire reduced the church of St. Clement in Nes, on the island of Ameland, to ashes. Only the walls of the island’s sole Catholic church remain standing, the mayor of the island has said.
The devastating fire comes just two days after the new pastoral team was presented by the bishop. Under the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden’s consolidation of parishes, the local island parish is to be united with several mainland parishes. Parish priest Fr. Paul Verheijen travelled to the island this morning to support the local community.
Bishop Gerard de Korte calls the situation “dramatic”, but expects the church to be rebuilt and the local Protestant communities to be hospitable to the Catholic faithful on Ameland.
The church of St. Clemens was the church where Cardinal Jan de Jong, archbishop of Utrecht from 1936 to 1955, was baptised and where he offered his first Mass. In his days, the territory of Groningen-Leeuwarden was still part of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. The church was a national monument, built in 1877 by famed architect Pierre Cuypers, who also designed the diocese’s cathedral of St. Joseph in Groningen.