Catholic Groups Speak Out Against Notre-Dame Restoration

By David Vives

Mass has resumed at Notre Dame Cathedral. Four months after the fire that destroyed the roof and damaged the structure, priests managed to convince the Paris authorities that they should continue the religious service.

But it was not easy. The cathedral, as a monument, belongs to the state. Archbishop Michel Christian Alain Aupetit is in charge of the cathedral. He said he had to raise his voice.

The Parliament gave its final green light on early July to a restoration bill, a text that has not reached consensus despite the unanimous support of parliamentarians. The goal “is to offer Notre Dame a restoration at the height of the place it occupies in the hearts of the French and the world,” said Minister of Culture Franck Riester.

Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral as reconstruction works are ongoing after it was badly damaged by a huge fire last April 15, in Paris. (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been nearly three months since a fire destroyed the roof of France’s storied Notre Dame Cathedral and donations for its reconstruction are up to nearly one billion U.S. dollars. But there’s a conflict within France over how to proceed.

The bill will now head to the Senate, the upper body of the French parliament, for further debate before making its way back to the National Assembly for final passage.

The law that will allow reconstruction to begin goes to the Senate today for a second time, after being rejected the first time.

The Senate and the Assembly are at odds over the issue. The Senate says the cathedral should be a faithful copy the largely medieval original, while the Assembly is behind French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal that could allow use of modern designs or materials.

According to “4 Vérités” chief editor media Guillaume de Thieulloy, Macron and the French government are violating many urban construction laws.

“This is contrary to our rules. Following the Venice Charter, we should rebuild the cathedral as it was before,” De Thieulloy Says.

The Senate denounced the government’s haste in managing the Notre Dame restoration.

This haste started the night of the blaze.

For example, on the very evening of the fire, the Prosecutor’s Office of Paris opened the investigation as a non-criminal “involuntary destruction by fire,” even as the cathedral was still burning. At the same time, Macron called for donations.

Workers install pallissades in front Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris before a decontamination work on August 13, 2019. (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

“This urgency seems suspicious to me. I don’t see how officials could know it was an accident when the cathedral was still burning,” De Thieulloy says.Today we still don’t know with certainty whether the fire was accidental or criminal.

De Thieulloy is also critical of the government for not including the Catholic church in the project when it opened an international architectural competition.

“The Archbishop was out of all discussions on the reconstruction project. The way the government has treated this project is very worrying for all Catholics.”

Restoration efforts began in July. According to the architect leading the restoration, Philippe Villeneuve, the first step is still to make the cathedral safe for the builders.