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Canterbury Cathedral needs tens of millions to halt destruction

It gained global fame in English literary masterpieces such as the 14th century plays of Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Canterbury Tales", and the 20th century play by T.S. Eliot, "Murder in the Cathedral".

The ravages of time and neglect have left Canterbury Cathedral, a World Heritage Site and one of the world’s best known Anglican church buildings, as an endangered structure.

The public relations manager of the Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal, Shelley Nye, said 9 million British pounds (US$13.3 million) of the total 50 million pounds needed has been raised, and the campaign will expand nationally and internationally in 2009. This is because the cathedral needs to raise a further 41 million pounds in the next five years or so.

"Following a high profile launch in October 2006, the appeal to raise 50 million pounds to carry out urgently needed renovations on one of the world’s great religious buildings was community and Kent-based [in southern England]," Nye told Ecumenical News International.
"As from now, we’re widening the appeal to include big business throughout the United Kingdom, tourist boards and private companies and we will soon be making an appeal to English Heritage for funds allocated to it by the National Lottery."

She said an appeal for dollars as well as pounds will be made in 2009 when the Canterbury Cathedral Choir tours parts of the United States, with its first concert in Chicago on 13 April. The choir will the move on to places such as Indianapolis, Atlanta, Charleston, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

"One or two representatives from the Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal will be travelling there with the choir," said Nye. "They’ll make their voices heard along with the choristers and so hopefully there’ll be a really good response."

The group is aiming to have Mathew Butler, chief executive of the Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal as part of the team travelling to the United States. Butler is a personal attendant to Prince Charles, who is the heir to the British throne and who would become the Supreme Governor of the Church of England if he became king.

Said Butler, "There is still a long way to go – 41 million pounds to be precise – and we have much planned for the next few years to ensure we secure these donations."

Canterbury and Durham are the only two cathedrals in Britain that are World Heritage Sites. In 1170 Thomas Becket, then Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in the cathedral by four knights at the behest of King Henry II. Within three years of his death, Becket was made a saint, and Canterbury in Kent, about 115 kilometres (70 miles) from London), became one of the leading pilgrimage centres of Europe.

(c) Ecumenical News International