Molokai's Saint Sophia Church badly damaged by fire
All three of Molokai’s fire engines and 12 firefighters responded to a blaze that gutted Saint Sophia Church in Kaunakakai last night.
Maui County fire investigators were on the scene this morning and had not released a cause of the blaze or a damage estimate, said Battalion Chief James Kino, who is on Maui.
“Over the phone, they said the structure is still standing, but the whole inside was gutted,” Kino said.
Firefighters got the call at 10:40 p.m. last night and had the blaze under control by 11:15 p.m., Kino said.
Saint Sophia is the largest of four Catholic churches on Molokai’s “topside” —which is all the island excluding the Kalaupapa Peninsula, said Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Diocese of Honolulu.
The church was built in 1937 and although old is not considered a historic structure, Downes said.
The Blessed Damien Catholic Parish — which includes all Molokai’s topside churches — had planned to raze the church to make way for a new, larger church later this year.
“It’s an old parish church like many we have in the Islands,” Downes said.
The new church, when completed at an estimated cost of $3 million, is to be named the Blessed Damien Church, in honor of Saint Damien deVeuster, the Belgian priest who ministered to Hansen’s disease patients on the Kalaupapa Peninsula 120 years ago and was canonized in October.
Downes said he doesn’t know the value of the church’s contents, but that the relic of St. Damien that toured Hawaii after his canonization is safe at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.