The Dean of Christchurch Cathedral cried when he was told early today there were no bodies buried in the rubble of the church.
Reverend Peter Beck told NZPA he got a telephone call about 1am from the head of the Urban Search and Rescue task force, Ralph Moore, who told him the shattered cathedral had been checked and there were no bodies in the rubble.
"I was expecting to get a call from Mr Moore saying they had found a body and I and my colleagues were going to go down and say prayers at the side of the body.
"But of course I got this other news and I just burst into tears. I was speechless, it was unbelievable."
Since the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, it had been reported that as many as 22 bodies could be were buried in the rubble of the 130-year-old cathedral.
Mr Beck said he had no idea where that figure came from.
"I have always said it seems too high and I have always had this sense within me that it was a lot fewer than that.
"Straight after the quake a young woman was in tears and I gave her a big hug. She was telling me that she had just rushed out of the tower just before the quake and there were people behind her."
Mr Beck said it was great news but he was also very conscious that a lot of people had lost loved ones.
"Our hearts go out to them. This is good news in a sense that there are no bodies there but at the same time we are very, very conscious of those who are mourning their loved ones and our hearts and prayers are with them."
He said people dealing with the aftermath of the huge level of damage had showed an indomitable Canterbury spirit.
"You get on and you do the things you have to do but sure it is not easy."
He said he shed a lot of tears on Tuesday when a large part of the country stopped for two minutes at 12.51pm to remember the dead.
"That is when I had a good cry and I needed to do that, but this morning just after 1am... that was a time for thankfulness."
He said his faith was as strong as ever.
The earthquake was not an act of God. The earthquake was the planet doing its thing the way the planet does.
"The act of God and the miracles has been the extraordinary way people have pulled together, reached out to one other. The act of God has been in the tears of people, in the weeping, in the lament. The act of God is in the compassion people are showing to one another. The act of God is in the courage people are showing.
"That is where you see God's love working in among people in that extraordinary human spirit that is enabling us to keep together."
He said Christchurch was overwhelmed with the support they were receiving from around New Zealand and around the world.
"But I want to say to everybody please keep it up. In a week or two, outside of Christchurch everybody will be getting on with their lives and it will be a bit of a memory and we are saying please just remember us because this is a very very long journey that we are on now." NZPA