French Catholic leaders to celebrate first mass at Notre-Dame since fire… in hard hats

Mass will be held at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris for the first time since the fire ravaged the monument two months ago - and the Catholic leaders taking part will be obliged to don a hard hat.

French Catholic leaders to celebrate first mass at Notre-Dame since fire... in hard hats
Candles, incense… and safety gear – the first mass since the blaze at Notre-Dame will not look like the thousands that have preceded it. 
Bishop Patrick Chauvet, Rector of Notre-Dame Cathedral, has announced that mass will be celebrated for the first time since the blaze, which took place on April 15th, on Saturday or Sunday (June 15th or 16th) – and that hard hats will be mandatory. 
The mass is set to be held in a small chapel that was spared by the fire where the Holy Crown of Thorns, believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, is kept. 
The mass — led by Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit — will be celebrated on a very small scale late Saturday, the diocese said.
The participants, which will include six or seven priests in addition to the archbishop and several canons, will have to wear a helmet, according to France Inter.
The date has been chosen as it is the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral's altar, which is celebrated every year on June 16th.
The event will be broadcast live by a French television channel so that Christians from all over France can participate, the diocese added. 
The mass may be preceded by the Vespers service, the sunset evening prayer service, to be held in the square in front of the cathedral. 
Bishop Patrick Chauvet also announced the creation of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the space in front of Notre-Dame.
Last week French health authorities advised parents living in central Paris with young children and pregnant women to get their lead levels tested after an abnormally high level was detected in a child in the area.
The fire that ravaged the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris last month released lead particles that have settled in potentially dangerous amounts in areas surrounding the church – where many Parisians live.
The cathedral is expected to remain closed to visitors for years as workers clear away debris before embarking on an ambitious plan to restore the roof within five years.
President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious target of five years for restoring the Notre-Dame, which was gutted by a fire on April 15th that felled its steeple.
The diocese is awaiting a response from the French authorities over whether it can re-open the parvis — the open space in front of the cathedral — to the public.
If the authorities approve the plan, the idea is to celebrate the evening prayers on the parvis, the diocese said.
A temporary structure could be erected there to host worshippers while the cathedral is rebuilt.

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Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

France's Notre-Dame cathedral is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, and remains on course to reopen in 2024, authorities said Saturday, following months of painstaking work to secure the building.

Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

The great mediaeval edifice survived the inferno on April 15th, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.

The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.

“The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.

Scaffolding in the interior of the building as the restoration phase begins. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

“We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”

The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on April 16th, 2024 – five years after the fire – despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.

The Notre-Dame spire, a later addition to the medieval building, was completely destroyed in the blaze. Photos by AFP

Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.

The cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month.

Notre-Dame’s famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.

It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Georgelin, the former head of France’s armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.