By Vatican News staff writer
On 15 April 2019, the world watched in horror as flames ravaged the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. Though the Cathedral’s spire collapsed and much of its ribbed roof made up of hundreds of wooden beams was damaged, only the brave efforts of the firefighters ensured that the religious heritage landmark survived the night.
Two years after the tragic fire, the road to its restoration has been long and challenging, yet hope still carries on that the Cathedral will return to its former glory.
In an interview with Olivier Bonnel of Vatican News, Bishop Éric Aumonier explains the work of reconstruction underway and the continuous efforts to rebuild the Cathedral. In February, Bishop Éric Aumonier was appointed the representative of the diocese of Paris for the follow-up of the restoration of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Before that, Bishop Aumonier served as the Bishop of Versailles from 2001 to 2020.
Explaining the progress of reconstruction efforts, Bishop Aumonier said that the phase of securing the building is almost complete and will soon progress into the phase of restoration.
He noted that a lot of work had to be done to clear the debris created by the tragic fire incident two years ago, especially in the transept.
At the same time, Bishop Aumonier pointed out, initial moves are being made to restore some of the side chapels which were soiled by the debris. “One can only imagine what it will be like when all the chapels are restored,” he said.
Notre-Dame: a symbol of the faith
Despite the ongoing work on the Cathedral, Bishop Aumonier noted the continued use of the Cathedral, while respecting safety measures.
During Holy Week for example, liturgies were celebrated albeit in a modest manner with the presence of the Archbishop to “show the constant prayer of the Church.”
At the same time, he expressed joy at the façade of the Cathedral which is standing with its porch and tympanum, and an image of Our Lady on a pillar which invites passers-by to come and pray in front of the Cathedral.
Bishop Aumonier has also observed the reactions and the interest of Parisians who are closely following the work of reconstruction and are eager for the reopening of the Cathedral.
Personal link to the Cathedral
“My link to Notre Dame is the link of every baptized person with Jesus himself,” explained the Bishop. At the same time, however, there are personal memories for him and for many others.
Bishop Aumonier recalls in particular, his episcopal ordination in 1996 which took place at the Notre Dame Cathedral. He also remembers several important events, including the visit of Pope St. John Paul II in 1980 and that of Pope Benedict XVI in 2008; departures and arrivals from pilgrimages, and diocesan gatherings which have taken place in the Cathedral.