Hope at Notre-Dame

June 17, 2019
Shay Maunz with AP reporting
SPECIAL SERVICE Patrick Chauvet, the rector of Notre-Dame cathedral, speaks during the first mass held there since a major fire at the church on April 15.
KARINE PERRET/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

On Saturday, the first mass was held at Notre-Dame cathedral since the church was ravaged by fire in April.

The service took place in a small side chapel. For security reasons, only about 30 people were allowed to attend. They were mainly priests, church employees, and workers who are rebuilding the church. The mass was broadcast on YouTube.

The heavily damaged building is still in fragile condition. But experts said it was safe to hold the service. Priests and worshippers wore hard hats. Charred wooden beams and holes in the vaulted ceiling were visible.

Father Pierre Vivares spoke to the Associated Press outside the cathedral on Saturday. “Today, it’s a small but a true victory against the disaster we have had,” he said.

The mass came exactly two months after the devastating blaze on April 15. The building’s iconic spire and much of its wooden roof were destroyed. But the cathedral remained standing.

Donors around the world have pledged nearly $1 billion to restore Notre-Dame. This has been met with some criticism. Critics say money should instead have been given to organizations that help needy people in France.

Still, French president Emmanuel Macron has said that the rebuilding of Notre-Dame “must be done” in five years. French lawmakers are considering a law designed to quicken the pace of the work. It would allow the project to sidestep some labor laws.

“We will rebuild this cathedral,” Vivares says. “It will take time, of course—a lot of money, lot of time, lot of work—but we will succeed.”