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Notre Dame on track to reopen late this year

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is scheduled to reopen on Dec. 8, to be followed by six months of celebrations, Masses, pilgrimages, prayers and exhibitions. The cathedral was extensively damaged by a fire in 2019.
Photo Credits: Charlene Yves/OSV News
PARIS — Archbishop Laurent Ulrich found himself taking over the Archdiocese of Paris in the spotlight three years after the Notre Dame fire, as the world watched the cathedral being rebuilt and waited for the work to be completed.

“When I was welcomed as archbishop of Paris, Notre Dame was a cathedral of scaffolding,” Archbishop Ulrich told OSV News in a written interview. “Now, it is changing day by day. The work is progressing, inside and out, and we are all looking forward to the joy of the reopening! It is a great honor and joy to be able to witness this extraordinary rebirth.”

Upon his appointment in April 2022, the new archbishop instantly made Notre Dame a priority. His main task was to work alongside the cathedral’s rector on reestablishing the cathedral’s liturgical and pastoral life, which will welcome visitors again in December.

“What has moved me so much over the years is precisely the joy that has animated all those involved in the project since the day after the fire,” the archbishop said. “All the trades worked together, craftsmen, artists … believers and nonbelievers alike. Competing companies joined forces. … Nowadays, every time I visit the site or meet those working on the liturgical furniture, sound and lighting, I witness this joy.”

Archbishop Ulrich is scheduled to celebrate Mass and consecrate the new altar on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8. In a February pastoral letter, he outlined the program for the six months of celebrations that will follow the reopening of Notre Dame, which he wants to be available to as many people as possible.

Archbishop Ulrich
It will be a key event for the Archdiocese of Paris, but Archbishop Ulrich also is attentive to the cathedral’s influence beyond the nation’s capital and France. “Through the emotion aroused by the fire, and the magnificent outpouring of solidarity that enabled it to be rebuilt, Notre Dame has demonstrated that it is not only the mother church of our diocese, but also a beacon, a spiritual point of reference for all French people, and, more broadly, for our world,” he explained to OSV News.

The archbishop of Paris noted that Notre Dame is the French name of the Virgin Mary, which makes the cathedral “a strong sign.”

“Like the Mother of God, the cathedral is not the light, but it reflects the light; it is a peaceful and sure sign that the Lord is here, in our lives, that he is present in our world and that he comes to meet each person along the way,” Archbishop Ulrich emphasized.

While the Church in France has gone through difficult times in recent years, marked by the crisis of sexual abuse, many French bishops are now witnessing signs of hope and spiritual renewal.

“It is not due to the reconstruction of Notre Dame, but I can see that the restoration of the cathedral is nourishing the hope of many Christians,” Archbishop Ulrich said. “Other events filled us with joy: the World Youth Day in Lisbon last summer, the pope’s visit to Marseille and more recently, the witness of so many catechumens who have met Christ in their lives and decided to follow Him. … For me, these are all signs for our Church today.”

Asked whether Christianity has a future in France and Europe, despite its disappearance as the cultural foundation of society’s structures, Archbishop Ulrich said, “I am convinced it does!

“God is indeed at work in France and in Europe even if we do not always see it,” the archbishop said. “The Lord invites us to bring the good news where we are, in the world that is ours,” he said.

“It is this world that He loves and leads. At Notre Dame, crowds of pilgrims and visitors will be able to experience His presence and unconditional welcome, in the beauty of a work of art, a celebration, a church song … This is what we are working on with great zeal.”

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