A BENDIGO church congregation is determined to restore the wreckage of their building, after it was gutted by a fire on Sunday.
A blaze ripped through St Paul's Coptic Orthodox Church in North Bendigo on early on Sunday afternoon.
Police say the fire was not suspicious.
Read more: Bendigo church substantially damaged by fire
Parish Priest Father Moses Curley said the congregation was shocked and saddened by the damage.
It comes just a decade after the church was established in Bendigo.
#FRV crews from Bendigo Fire Station had a busy weekend battling a #blaze at a church on Sunday. FRV #firefighters were supported at the scene by @CFA_Updates crews as they worked to contain the #fire. 🚒— Fire Rescue Victoria (@FireRescueVic) September 21, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/IFLC87Emmdpic.twitter.com/U3CHtL9uU2
A group of now-parishioners bought the building in 2010. It is one of the few Coptic churches in regional Victoria.
A former Anglican church, the church building is more than 100 years old.
It has a congregation of about 35 families.
Father Curley said the congregation hoped to start restoring its interior as soon as possible.
He said they believed the building was structurally sound, allowing them to restore it, rather than rebuild, but that was subject to the verdict of council building surveyors.
Father Curley said the congregation was devastated, but also determined to restore and rebuild.
"I think the sadness will quickly turn to a more positive reaction of restoration and rebuilding. It's a resilient community" he said.
"The Coptic people represent 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the population of Egypt, the church is nearly 2000 years old it's a very, very ancient church, it's a resilient church, so I expect a strong recovery."
Father Curley thanked emergency services for their quick response to the fire and neighbours for raising the alarm.
Bendigo Interfaith Council chair Monsignor Frank Marriott said he was stunned by news of the church's damage, but grateful it was not suspicious.
Monsignor Marriott offered condolences to the St Paul's community on behalf of the Bendigo Interfaith Council.
"To its members, a church is more than just a building; it is a place of worship and of fellowship and community," he said.
"At a time when their community life has already been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand the increased sense of loss and grief that the St Paul Coptic family will be experiencing.
"[We] assure them of the caring support of their brothers and sisters of the interfaith community of Bendigo."
Emergency services were alerted to the fire shortly before 1pm on Sunday. It was brought under control before 2pm.
Incident controller Tony Hope told the Bendigo Advertiser there was some damage to the structure, the brickwork, and iron on the roof. He said the ceiling had been destroyed.
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