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Burned Aylmer Church to Be Rebuilt

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--September 15, 2009No charges have been laid in the suspicious fire. (Photo - Courtesy of the CBC)

Parishioners at the 120-year-old Roman Catholic church destroyed in June by an arsonist will hold a design competition to help rebuild the structure.

Two Sundays after St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau, Que., was gutted by fire on June 11, parishioners gathered near the ruins of the historic building for mass.

"We were going to rebuild. What we didn't know at the time was that … were the walls strong enough to do it exactly as we wish? Now we have that confirmation," said Richard Begin, a warden at St. Paul's.

He said Tuesday the congregation plans to restore the church's exterior to its original appearance, and to create more space inside the building for community meetings, concerts and theatre. "That's the overall idea. Is it going to work or not? We don't know at this stage, and we count on the architects to help us with that," Begin said.

St. Paul's will launch its design competition in October. The church is hoping to get funding from the City of Gatineau and the federal and Quebec governments. They also hope to use the latest green technologies to rebuild the church. "You know, we would like it to be a link between the past and the future. The past being the heritage features of the building, and the future being new technologies that would make that building avant-gardiste in a way," Begin said.

The parishioners hope to raise the money and get services back at St. Paul's within two years. In the meantime, parishioners will continue to gather for mass in the movie theatre at the Galleries d'Aylmer shopping centre.

Police have not yet arrested anyone in connection with the fire, which they began investigating as an arson when police found empty gas cans and evidence of forced entry at the scene.