Notre Dame to celebrate first Mass since fire


The Notre Dame Cathedral will celebrate Mass on Saturday evening, the first since a fire destroyed large parts of the iconic Paris landmark nearly two months ago.

Around 30 people will attend in in the Chapel of the Virgin on the east side of the cathedral and will be required to wear safety helmets.

Read more: Reconstructing Notre Dame: All options open

Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit will lead the service, which will be broadcast on television.

‘Fragile state’

Since the roof and spire collapsed in the blaze on April 15, workers have been trying to clean the inside and outside of the 12th-century edifice as well as restore parts of the church.

Culture Minister Franck Riester said Friday that the cathedral remained in “a fragile state” and the vaulted roof “could still collapse” at any moment.

Total restoration costs to reconstruct the cathedral could reach almost €850 million ($955 million) and take more than a decade to complete. French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to complete reconstruction in five years, a timeframe experts say is probably unrealistic. 

Billionaires hold back donations

Exactly how the restoration will be paid for could be up in the air. Pledges from billionaire French donors have yet to materialize, with only €80 million euros from mostly small donations having been handed over, Riester told France radio.

Fashion moguls Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault promised a total of €300 million after the fire, while energy giant Total and said it would pitch in €100 million and Bettencourt Schueller Foundation of the L’Oreal fortune offered another €200 million.

Riester attributed the major donors holding back to two reasons.

“First, you might have people who promised to give but who in the end won’t,” he said. “But mostly, and this is normal, is that the donations will be handed over as the work advances.”

The major donors have said they still plan to donate but want to see how reconstruction plans progress and how the state intends to use the funds. 

cw/sms (AFP, AP)

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