The hero priest, Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, who rushed inside a burning Notre Dame Cathedral to save the church’s priceless relics, including the Crown of Thorns and consecrated hosts under lock and key, is no stranger to heroism, according to reports that have surfaced since Monday.
Fr. Fournier led first responders in a human chain to save the religious relics, according to The Guardian, as flames engulfed the building’s roof — an incident started by what authorities believe was a small construction fire near the famous Notre Dame spire.
Fournier “demanded he be allowed into the cathedral with the firefighters to retrieve one of its holiest relics,” The Guardian reported.
Fr. Fournier managed to save a number of priceless objects, including Jesus’ Crown of Thorns, which He wore as He was beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, and the tunic of St. Louis, one of the patron saints of France. He also rescued concescrated hosts, which Catholics believe hold the real presence of Jesus Christ, from within the church’s locked tabernacle.
“Father Fournier is an absolute hero,” one firefighter told local media, according to People Magazine. “He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”
Altogether, Fr. Fournier and others saved more than 40 works. He was pictured speaking to reporters outside the Cathedral as firefighters were putting out the blaze within.
— Etienne Loraillère ن (@Eloraillere) April 15, 2019
But Fr. Fournier is, apparently, no stranger to difficult situations.
In 2015, Fr. Fournier, then also the chaplain of Paris’ emergency services department, was part of the first wave of first responders who arrived at the Bataclan nightclub following reports of a terrorist attack. Fr. Fournier went in with police and firefighters, tended to and comforted the injured, performed the sacrament of the Annointing of the Sick for the gravely wounded, and gave the sacrament of Last Rites to the 89 victims of the attack.
“I gave collective absolution, as the Catholic Church authorizes me,” Fr. Fournier told reporters on scene after the attack.
But it also turns out Fr. Fournier is a war hero. He served in the Diocese of the French Armed Forces for nearly a decade before becoming Paris’ emergency services chaplain, and was deployed to Afghanistan where “he survived an ambush that killed 10 of his fellow soldiers,” according to Newsweek.
He spoke about his time in Afghanistan to media when he returned from his deployment. “On my first trip to Afghanistan, I was seized by fear,” he said. “Everything I saw could potentially be dangerous, as we had learned during training courses.”