Notre Dame Cathedral on Saturday held its first mass since a devastating fire tore through the building two months ago on April 15.
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Only a small group of about 30 people attended the mass, including the church’s clergy, worshipers, media and construction workers. The mass was also transmitted live on a French Catholic TV station, and dozens of other Catholics attended the service from outside the cathedral, watching on their phones.
The small group convened in a chapel behind the large gold-covered cross that was miraculously found intact after the fire, which destroyed the building’s roof, causing its iconic spire to collapse. For safety reasons, those attending the mass were asked to wear hard hats inside the church.
Paris archbishop Michel Aupetit led the service. He has pushed for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame since the fire and wanted to hold the mass as a way to keep the energy around the monument’s recovery alive.
French Minister of Culture Franck Riester that only 9% of the $955 million in donations that had been promised to Notre Dame’s reconstruction had actually been received, according to Agence France-Press. He said some donors were waiting to send their donations because they wanted clear plans for how their money would be spent.
The mass was held a day before an annual celebration of the consecration of the church’s altar, known as the feast of the Dedication of Our Lady, and Aupetit prayed to the statue of the Virgin Mary, saying that he was thankful to be there.
“It was extraordinary,” he said, “to be able to celebrate again, even in this wounded cathedral. I was ordained bishop in this cathedral.”
Aupetit called it “a little weird” praying with hard hats on and said that he took it off during the consecration because “come on.”
He hopes he’ll be able to hold mass again soon, though. “As soon as I’m given the authorization again, I will go again, because I used to go all the time,” he said.
The church site is still being investigated by the French police. Investigators have now seized 100 samples from the crime scene to undergo laboratory examinations. However, they fear that a lot of the samples won’t be useful.
Investigators believe that the fire started because of a short-circuit around the electrified bells in the spire. They also believe that there had been a human error in locating the fire, and that a security guard inspected the wrong sector of the church.
As the investigation continues, the church’s reconstruction will remain on hold until the it is fully cleared of rubble. Yet still, with this mass, the clergy around Notre Dame demonstrates that it’s eager to start a regular church life again.