WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington has raised and donated nearly half a million dollars to support efforts to restore and rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris , which has been extensively damaged by a fire two years since.
The donation was made on September 16 during a mass celebrated by Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory in the crypt of the National Shrine.
He called the gift to “our sisters and brothers in France” for the repair of the cathedral “an expression of our deep affection and support as they continue the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris”.
âOur local response (to the fire) in the United States of America has been to join millions of people in making a commitment to help restore this global treasure,â Cardinal Gregory said.
Cardinal Gregory, who as Archbishop of Washington is chairman of the board of directors of the National Shrine, was the main celebrant of the Mass.
The concelebrants included Mgr. Patrick Chauvet, archpriest and rector of the cathedral of Paris; Mgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine in Washington; and Mgr. Vito Buonanno, director of pilgrimages to the sanctuary.
Noting that Notre Dame Cathedral “has hosted countless millions of people for centuries – some were in fact saints while others were great sinners,” Cardinal Gregory said, “May our donation help them Parisians to restore a place of prayer and beauty for those who visit this world-famous sanctuary in the centuries to follow.
The Mass was televised on EWTN, Catholic TV and Salt + Light TV, and broadcast live on various Internet platforms.
Among those present were Phillip Etienne, Ambassador of France to the United States; Michael Picaud, president of the Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, the association which collects funds for the restoration of the cathedral; and the parishioners of the parish of Saint-Louis de France, the French-speaking parish of the Archdiocese of Washington.
During Mass, prayers were offered for the benefactors and donors of the cathedral restoration effort. At the end of the mass, Mgr. Rossi and Cardinal Gregory presented a check for $ 465,000 to Mgr. Chauvet. Money, Mgr. Rossi said he was brought up “because of the great generosity of people across the United States and beyond.”
âOn the Monday of Holy Week 2019, a fire ravaged Notre-Dame and caused significant damage to this venerable cathedral,â said Mgr. Rossi explained before presenting the check. “That day, the National Shrine launched a campaign to help restore the cathedral, which was later supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States dioceses.”
The shrine’s fundraising effort to restore Notre Dame began when more than 2,000 people attended an organ concert it hosted less than two weeks after the fire. The concert was given by Johann Vexo, an organist from Notre-Dame who was playing at the cathedral when the fire broke out there.
The National Shrine has also created a special online collection to raise funds in support of the restoration effort.
Mgr. Chauvet, speaking in French, said he was “particularly touched” by the donation which “will be of great help to Notre-Dame”.
Noting the difficulties in traveling in this time of COVID-19, he said that “nothing will separate us from our American friends because love is stronger than the pandemic”.
âI want to thank all the faithful here because we see the generosity of the American people,â said Mgr. Chauvet said speaking through an interpreter. âAfter this fire, Notre Dame is no longer Notre Dame de Paris, but Notre Dame du Monde.
More than 400 firefighters spent more than 15 hours putting out the fire on April 15, 2019, which destroyed the main roof, bell tower, statues of saints, choir and nave of the 850-year-old cathedral. The cathedral’s many priceless works of art were also damaged by smoke and water.
Firefighters were able to save the cathedral’s famous 13th-century stained-glass rose windows; relics believed to be Jesus’ crown of thorns, one of the nails used to crucify him, and a piece of wood from his cross; other important works of art and treasures; and the great organ of the cathedral. This organ, the largest in France, has 8,000 pipes and five keyboards. It was built in the 15th century and restored in the 18th century.
A five-month investigation into the cause of the fire was inconclusive. Investigators speculated that the fire was started either by a workman’s cigarette or by an electrical short circuit.
It is estimated that it will take more than a decade and cost more than a billion dollars to completely restore the historic cathedral.
âWhen the iconic Notre Dame Shrine suffered severe fire damage in 2019, the hearts of people around the world were shaken,â Cardinal Gregory said. “People around the world all wanted to make sure that this house of welcome and prayer would be available for generations to come so that they could find and embrace Christ in this place of hospitality and welcome.”
He added that the donation of the sanctuary to Notre Dame Cathedral will ensure that future generations can continue to “come to this blessed place by seeking and welcoming none other than Jesus himself in a sanctuary that existed under the title privileged of his own Holy Mother. . “
Szczepanowski is editor-in-chief of the Catholic Standard, the Archdiocese of Washington newspaper.