The archbishop of Paris and Catholics from around France and the world honored the firefighters who saved Notre-Dame Cathedral, praying Sunday at a special Easter Mass for a swift reconstruction of the monument.
Some streets around the medieval cathedral also reopened six days after the blaze, allowing tourists to get a closer look and local restaurants to reopen after firefighters declared the last hot points extinguished. Notre-Dame itself is expected to remain closed for years.
The blaze that engulfed the cathedral on Monday night forced parish members and visitors who hoped to worship at Notre-Dame on Easter to find other places to attend services. The Paris diocese invited them to join Sunday’s Mass at the grandiose Saint-Eustache Church on the Right Bank of the Seine River.
The firefighters, who struggled for nine hours to contain flames that consumed Notre-Dame’s roof and collapsed its spire, held a place of honor at the Saint-Eustache. Police officers and a soldier guarded the 13th-century church. Visitors stood in a long line to have their bags checked before they could enter.
Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit handed firefighters at the Easter Mass a book of scriptures that was rescued from Notre-Dame.
“Your men were able to save many things in the cathedral. But you also saved an item that is precious for us,” Aupetit said. “It still is a bit dirty, full of ashes and likely a bit damaged by the fire. You saved it, and I wanted to give it to you. It’s a very humble way to thank you.” said.
He notably thanked fire service chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who recovered from the fire a chalice containing consecrated hosts that for Catholics are the body of Christ.
Speaking of Jesus’ resurrection, Aupetit told the congregation, “We, too, brothers and sisters, we will rise again, just like our cathedral will rise again.”
The French archbishop also shared thoughts for “our Sri Lanka brothers who were massacred” in Easter attacks on churches and hotels that killed more than 200 people and injured hundreds more.