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Mass celebrated after fire damages centuries-old church

Posted at 7:04 PM, Jul 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-12 22:04:12-04

SAN GABRIEL, Calif. (AP) - Mass was celebrated Sunday on the grounds of a historic Catholic church in Southern California that was heavily damaged by fire a day earlier.

The blaze early Saturday destroyed the rooftop and most of the interior of San Gabriel Mission, which was undergoing renovation to mark its upcoming 250th anniversary celebration.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez presided over Sunday's service at a chapel near the burned sanctuary.

Nobody was hurt in the fire.

Gomez said in a statement that historic paintings and other artifacts had been removed as part of the renovations.

Firefighters entered the church around 4 a.m. Saturday and tried to beat back the flames, but they had to retreat when roofing and other structural materials began to fall, San Gabriel Fire Capt. Paul Negrete said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, Negrete said. He said the recent toppling of monuments to Junipero Serra, the founder of the California mission system who has long been a symbol of oppression among Indigenous activists, will be a factor in the investigation.