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Archbishop of Paris: Notre-Dame restoration donations still needed

CNA Friday, 17 May 2019
Paris, France, May 16, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- One month after a fire destroyed the roof and spire of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Archbishop of Paris released an update on reconstruction efforts and the donations received thus far.

Of the € 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) publicly pledged in the emotional aftermath of the fire, only € 13.5 million has been collected so far, Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris said in a statement published on Wednesday, May 15.

But the reasons for this are “simple, the discussions are just starting to prepare conventions of private law. They will also serve as a framework for expressing the will of these major donors,” Aupetit said.

Some of the major donors who have pledged the most money include French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, who pledged 100 million euros, and Bernard Arnault, who pledged 200 million euros, according to an NPR report. The owners of L'Oréal cosmetic company along with the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation pledged 200 million euros.

Of the already-collected € 13.5 million, € 9.5 million was raised from 43,000 French and foreign individuals, including $7,000 of donations from United States donors. The remaining € 4 million came from four donors, according to the archbishop’s report.

Aupetit said that exact amount needed for the restoration is still being evaluated, but “the needs appear considerable.”

"Any given euro will be a euro that will serve to reshape the heart of the cathedral. It will be used to finance an ambitious but necessary” restoration program, he said.

The roof of Notre Dame caught fire before 7 p.m. local time on April 15, 2019. While the blaze brought down the Cathedral’s spire and destroyed the roof, the Eucharist and most of the relics and artwork inside were spared, including a relic from the crown of thorns. The main structure of the Cathedral was also spared from serious damage, including its famous rose windows, bells and bell towers.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has said that he would like the restoration to be completed within 5 years, but experts estimate that it could take much longer.

Franck Riester, the Minister of Culture in France, said Wednesday that the damaged parts of the cathedral must be removed and the structure secured before real restoration efforts can begin, according to Fox News. He added that he knows of another collection that has raised $952.2 million so far for the restoration efforts, and that it is too early to tell the exact amount that will be needed to rebuild the roof.

Aupetit said in his statement that he will celebrate Mass in the cathedral again “as soon as possible,” though he said for safety reasons it would likely be a private Mass.  

In a letter to Macron this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who is visiting Paris this week, offered donations of Canadian softwood lumber and steel for the rebuilding efforts. Trudeau was scheduled to tour the damaged cathedral during his visit this week, The Canadian Press reported.

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