The bishop who steered Christchurch's Catholic community through recovery from the massive earthquakes five years ago has died, aged 74.

Bishop Barry Jones, a Rangiora-born priest described as "a Canterbury man through and through", died peacefully at 3.30am today surrounded by his family.

He had been in bad health for some months and was readmitted to Christchurch Hospital on January 29 after a heart attack.

He had been a priest for a few months short of 50 years, and Bishop of Christchurch since 2007. He led the diocese through earthquakes which destroyed several parish churches and badly damaged his Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, known as the Basilica, which has still not reopened.


Church spokeswoman Simone Olsen said the bishop worked hard to support families whose homes were damaged.

"Bishop Barry's main concern was the fact that the Catholic people in the wider community were suffering with their homes and the stress," she said.

"He spent a lot of time at the Catholic schools with teachers who were stressed and students who were quite distressed going through a difficult time, just supporting people through that difficult time."

The church's national leader Cardinal John Dew said the church was mourning "a loved brother, friend and servant leader".

"Bishop Barry was a man of great and unwavering faith in the Lord, he was a humble and stoic man and this was particularly so in the face of his recent illness," the cardinal said.

"As bishops we will greatly miss his dry sense of humour at our meetings, and in our work together we will miss his wisdom and his pastoral insights. He would often be mindful and express the needs of those that were most vulnerable, such was his empathy and pastoral nature.

"He was a man of few words, but unafraid to speak his mind and always with wisdom. He had an incredible sense of social justice, a grasp of tikanga Maori and fluent in te reo."

Bishop Barry served as priest in Timaru North, Cathedral, Christchurch Hospital, Kumara, Akaroa, Sockburn, Te Rangimarie, Burnham, Vice-Rector Good Shepherd House, Riccarton and Greymouth.


Funeral arrangements will be announced soon.