By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) – Almost a year after the fire that devastated Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the city’s archbishop organized a small ceremony to mark Good Friday, praying for the message of rebirth Easter could comfort a country hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Only seven people, including the Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, attended the solemn service in the apse behind the Pietà de Notre-Dame due to national foreclosure across France, but many others watched their television.
“A year ago, this cathedral burned, causing perplexity,” said Aupetit, after bowing to a relic of the crown of thorns of Christ who was saved from the fire by a firefighter.
“Today we are in this half-collapsed cathedral to say that life goes on. “
The world has been “overthrown and paralyzed by a pandemic that is spreading death,” said Aupetit. “As we go to celebrate Easter, we will celebrate life that is stronger than death, love stronger than hate. “
The prized golden crown rested on a red velvet pillow placed on an altar in front of a huge golden cross, while Aupetit headed the service in crimson clothing.
He and his religious colleagues wore white helmets when entering the cathedral, much of which remains a construction site, before removing them for service.
French actors Philippe Torreton and Judith Chemla read texts by Christian writers Charles Peguy and Paul Claudel, while classical violinist Renaud Capuçon provided musical accompaniment.
The three were dressed in overalls and white boots to protect them from lead poisoning after the fire left traces of metal throughout the building.
The hour-long ceremony ended with Chemla’s song “Ave Maria”.
It was the second service celebrated in the Gothic church since the April 15 fire.
On June 15, 2019, a mass to commemorate the consecration of the cathedral as a place of worship was held in a side chapel of Notre-Dame which had not been damaged by the fire.
The fire destroyed the roof of the medieval cathedral, knocked down the spire and almost knocked down the main bell towers and exterior walls before the firefighters overpowered it.
President Emmanuel Macron has set a five-year goal for the restoration of Notre Dame, one of the most recognizable monuments in Europe. Restoration work was, however, suspended by the foreclosure that began in France on March 17.
(Report by Dominique Vidalon; Edited by Mike Collett-White)