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Priests and worshippers in hard hats attend Notre Dame's first mass since fire

Only around 10% of money pledged for the cathedral’s reconstruction has been donated so far.

France Notre Dame The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, second left, leads the first mass in a side chapel, two months after the fire at Notre Dame. Source: KARINE PERRET via PA Images

THE NOTRE DAME cathedral in Paris has hosted its first mass exactly two months since the devastating fire, with priests and worshippers wearing hard hats to protect themselves against possible falling debris.

Dressed in a white robe and helmet, Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit led the service, which was attended by just some 30 people – half of them clergy.

The mass started at 4pm in the Chapel of the Virgin on the east side of the cathedral, confirmed to be safe. It was broadcast live on Catholic TV channel KTO.

Aupetit was joined by the rector of Notre Dame, Patrick Chauvet, other clergy, volunteers, people working on the restoration as well a handful of lay worshippers.

The date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral’s altar, which is celebrated every year on 16 June.

The date is “highly significant, spiritually,” Chauvet told AFP, adding he was happy to be able to show that “Notre Dame is truly alive”.

Source: KTOTV/YouTube

 ’Inventive’ reconstruction 

President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious target of five years for restoring Notre Dame, which was gutted by a fire on 15 April that felled its steeple and consumed the lattice of beams supporting the roof.

The diocese is awaiting a response from the French authorities over whether it can re-open the esplanade in front of the cathedral to the public.

If the authorities approve the plan, the idea is to celebrate evening prayers there, the diocese said.

The church has also floated the idea of erecting a temporary structure in front of the cathedral to welcome worshippers while the building is being repaired.

Up to 150 workers have been working at the cathedral daily since the fire, continuing to remove debris and stabilise the structure.

Two large white canopies have been placed above the nave and the choir to ensure the edifice is protected, including from the rain.

Macron’s call for an “inventive” rather than identical reconstruction of the steeple has left some architects up in arms.

Meanwhile, legislation over the reconstruction has been blocked in parliament over disagreements between the upper and lower houses and is now only expected to be adopted at the end of July.

Pledges of some €850 million had been made from prominent French businessmen and ordinary citizens but only around 10% of that has been donated so far.

France Info public radio said just €80 million has been handed over, with businessmen giving the money in tranches and some private individuals renouncing their pledges due to the apparent success of the campaign.

© – AFP 2019

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