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A tourist boat on the Seine River near the Notre Dame Cathedral on March 31 as restoration works continues (OSV News/Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters)

For some, the Notre Dame Cathedral fire was a sign of devastation of faith and Christian values. But for many more in France, it meant awakening of faith on an unprecedented scale. Source: OSV News.

“The fire gave us all a boost,” Fr Henry de Villefranche said, speaking of a “renewed vitality” encouraged by the Notre Dame worksite in Paris. “The Church was asleep. Some people were behaving badly. In that respect, the fire was providential. It pushed us all to move forward and give our best.”

Few know it better than the chaplains of the iconic cathedral and Fr de Villefranche is one of them, but the only one remaining from before the fire. A few metres from Notre Dame, in an old medieval street, on Ile de la Cité, he works on ensuring continuity of Notre Dame’s heritage with the new team, responsible for the liturgical life of the renovated cathedral.

Ile de la Cité is a famous island on the Seine River, one of two natural islands in Paris and the heart of the French capital. It’s where Notre Dame Cathedral is located and where hundreds of shocked Parisians watched as flames consumed the cathedral’s medieval roof on April 15, 2019.

The cathedral welcomed between 12 million and 14 million visitors every year before the fire. The influx is expected to increase after the reopening on December 8.

With this in mind, Fr de Villefranche and his team are setting up a didactic trail, designed to enable visitors to explore the essentials of Christian history and faith as they stroll around the cathedral. It’s for those searching for their faith and for those wanting to deepen it.

“Notre Dame is a holy place, just like Jerusalem,” Fr de Villefranche pointed out. 

“Notre Dame, too, is a place that leaves no one indifferent, a place where God can be encountered.”


Fire ‘gave us all a boost,’ Notre Dame chaplain says as Paris prepares for cathedral’s reopening (By Caroline de Sury, OSV News)