Fire Destroys St. Joseph Maronite Rite Church In Olean

August 29, 2011 Updated Aug 29, 2011 at 10:32 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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Fire Destroys St. Joseph Maronite Rite Church In Olean

August 29, 2011 Updated Aug 29, 2011 at 10:32 AM EDT

OLEAN, NY ( release ) A late afternoon fire destroyed St. Joseph Maronite Rite Church in Olean Saturday.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec issued the following statement:

“I was deeply saddened to see the pictures of the fire that has gutted St. Joseph Church in Olean. Our parishes in the Olean area have already reached out to their new pastor, Father Anthony Salem, and the St. Joseph Parish community. They will work to accommodate the faithful of St. Joseph Parish as they work to recover from this tragedy. I ask that everyone in the Diocese of Buffalo keep this parish in their prayers during their time of tremendous loss.”

Father Gregory Dobson, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Olean, issued the following statement this evening, offering assistance to St. Joseph Parish following this afternoon’s fire:

As the Episcopal Vicar of Southern Cattaraugus County for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, I echo the sentiment of our own Bishop, the Most Rev. Edward U. Kmiec, in offering prayerful condolences and promises of support to the Bishop of the Maronite Catholic diocese, the Most Rev. Gregory J. Mansour, as well as the new pastor and our new friend, Rev. Anthony Salem, and the parishioners of St.. Joseph Maronite Church on the tragic and devastating fire they have experienced.

We offer the sanctuary of St. Mary of the Angels beginning Sunday (August 28) for the Maronite Liturgy at 12:30 p.m. We will continue to offer our church and hall and those of other Catholic spaces including Sacred Heart Church and hall in Portville.

We have also offered whatever sacred vestments, linens, or vessels that may be needed. We especially promise our prayers for Father Anthony and the people of our Maronite community now and in the weeks and months ahead. We will move the statue of St. Joseph, usually on display in our parish hall, to a place of honor in our sanctuary.

This statue is known among parishioners in both Catholic communities as a special reminder of the early hospitality St. Mary's offered to the Maronite and Melkite Catholics when they arrived in Olean many decades ago.

Eyewitness News will continue to follow this story.