The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, second left, leads the first mass in a side chapel, two months after a devastating fire engulfed the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, Saturday June 15, 2019, in Paris. (KARINE PERRET, POOL VIA AP)
PARIS－The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris hosted its first Mass on Saturday, exactly two months after a devastating blaze that shocked the world, with priests and worshippers wearing hard hats to protect themselves against possible falling debris. Dressed in a white robe and helmet, Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit led the service, which was attended by just about 30 people－half of them clergy.
We will rebuild this cathedral. It will take time of course－a lot of money, lot of time, lot of work－but we will succeed. Today it's a small but a true victory against the disaster we have had
Father Pierre Vivares
The mass started at 6 pm in the Chapel of the Virgin on the east side of the cathedral, which is confirmed to be safe. Aupetit was joined by the rector of Notre-Dame, Patrick Chauvet, other clergy, volunteers, people working on the restoration as well a handful of lay worshippers.
Other worshippers could watch the Mass live on a Catholic TV station. The video showed some burned wood still in the church but a famous statue of the Virgin and Child appeared intact behind wooden construction planks.
The annual Dedication Mass commemorated the cathedral's consecration as a place of worship.
"This cathedral is a place of worship, it is its very own and unique purpose," Aupetit said.
One French priest called the service "a true happiness, full of hope."
"We will rebuild this cathedral. It will take time of course－a lot of money, lot of time, lot of work－but we will succeed," Father Pierre Vivares told The Associated Press outside the cathedral. "Today it's a small but a true victory against the disaster we have had."
It is still unclear when the cathedral will reopen to the public.
French Culture Minister Franck Riester said this week the cathedral remains in a "fragile" state, especially its vaulted ceiling, which is still at risk of collapsing.
French President Emmanuel Macron has set a goal of rebuilding it in just five years, which many experts consider unrealistic. In the meantime, the French parliament is debating amendments to a new law that would create a public body to expedite the restoration of the cathedral and circumvent some of France's complex labor laws.
The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit leads the first mass in a side chapel, two months after a devastating fire engulfed the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, Saturday June 15, 2019, in Paris. (KARINE PERRET / POOL VIA AP)
Up to 150 workers have been working at the cathedral daily since the fire, continuing to remove debris and stabilize the structure.
Two large white canopies have been placed above the nave and the choir to ensure the edifice is protected, including from the rain.
Macron's call for an "inventive" rather than identical reconstruction of the steeple has left some architects up in arms.
Meanwhile, legislation over the reconstruction has been blocked in parliament over disagreements between the upper and lower houses and is now only expected to be adopted at the end of July.
Pledges of about 850 million euros (US$960 million) had been made from prominent French businessmen and ordinary citizens but only around 10 percent of that has been donated so far.
France Info public radio said just 80 million euros had so far been handed over, with businessmen giving the money in tranches and some private individuals renouncing their pledges due to the apparent success of the campaign.
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