Notre Dame cel­e­brates first Mass since huge April fire

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News -

The arch­bishop wore a hard-hat hel­met, burnt wood de­bris was still vis­i­ble and only about 30 peo­ple were let in­side, but Notre Dame Cathedral on Satur­day held its first Mass since the dev­as­tat­ing April 15 fire that rav­aged its roof and top­pled its mas­ter­piece spire.

Ex­actly two months af­ter the blaze en­gulfed the land­mark Gothic build­ing in the French cap­i­tal, the ser­vice was cel­e­brated by Paris Arch­bishop Michel Au­petit in a chapel be­hind the choir, a place con­firmed by con­struc­tion ex­perts as safe.

French Cul­ture Min­is­ter Franck Ri­ester said this week the cathedral re­mains in a “frag­ile” state, es­pe­cially its vaulted ceil­ing, which is still at risk of col­laps­ing.

For se­cu­rity rea­sons, only about 30 peo­ple – mainly priests, canons and church em­ploy­ees – were ad­mit­ted in­side the cathedral for the ser­vice, while Au­petit and others wore con­struc­tion worker’s hel­mets.

Some of the work­ers re­build­ing the church were also in­vited.

Other wor­shipers could watch the Mass live on a Catholic TV sta­tion. The video showed some burnt wood still in the church but a fa­mous statue of the Vir­gin and Child ap­peared in­tact be­hind wooden con­struc­tion planks.

The an­nual Ded­i­ca­tion Mass com­mem­o­rated the cathedral’s con­se­cra­tion as a place of wor­ship.

“This cathedral is a place of wor­ship, it is its very own and unique pur­pose,” Au­petit said.

One French priest called the ser­vice “a true hap­pi­ness, full of hope.”

“We will re­build this cathedral. It will take time of course – a lot of money, lot of time, lot of work – but we will suc­ceed,” Fa­ther Pierre Vi­vares told The As­so­ci­ated Press out­side the cathedral. “To­day it’s a small but a true vic­tory against the dis­as­ter we have had.”

It is still un­clear when the cathedral will re­open to the public.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has set a goal of re­build­ing it in just five years, which many ex­perts con­sider un­re­al­is­tic.

In the mean­time, the French par­lia­ment is de­bat­ing amend­ments to a new law that would cre­ate a public body to ex­pe­dite the restora­tion of the cathedral and cir­cum­vent some of France’s com­plex la­bor laws.

WE WILL RE­BUILD THIS CATHEDRAL. IT WILL TAKE TIME OF COURSE – A LOT OF MONEY, LOT OF TIME, LOT OF WORK – BUT WE WILL SUC­CEED.

Fa­ther Pierre Vi­vares

KARINE PERRET AP

In a side chapel of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, priests at­tend a ser­vice Satur­day led by Arch­bishop of Paris Michel Au­petit. It was the first since a big fire in April.

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