Donations trickle in as Mass is again said at Notre Dame
A small congregation wearing hard hats yesterday attended Mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris - the first service to be held since fire devastated the Gothic landmark two months ago.
Church leaders are keen to show life goes on at the cathedral as donations to help rebuild it trickle in. However, last week it emerged that less than 10pc of the €850m very publicly pledged by billionaires, business leaders and others has been received.
"The big donors haven't paid. Not a cent," said Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame. "They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees' salaries."
Yesterday's Mass, which commemorates the cathedral's consecration as a place of worship, was held in a side-chapel, with attendance limited to about 30 people who wore protective headgear for safety reasons. "It is a nice symbol. A very small group of people will attend and one can understand why as there are still major safety issues," Culture Minister Franck Riester told Europe 1 radio.
He told France 2 television last Friday the cathedral was still "in a fragile state, namely the vault, which has not yet been secured. It can still collapse".
The April 15 blaze caused the roof and spire of the architectural masterpiece to collapse, triggering a worldwide outpouring of sadness as well as the multi-million-euro pledges for reconstruction work.
Among the high-profile people who promised to donate to the rebuilding effort were luxury goods tycoons Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault.
"There could be people who promised to donate, then in the end did not," Riester said, without giving further details of who they were.
"But more importantly, and this is normal, the donations will be paid as restoration work progresses."
French President Emmanuel Macron has set a target of five years for restoring the cathedral, though Riester was more cautious. "The president was right to give a target, an ambition. But obviously what matters in the end is the quality of the work," he said.
Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit led yesterday's service.