A year after Notre Dame Cathedral nearly burned to the ground, the Paris, France, landmark will open for an Easter Week celebration as a message of hope amid world struggling with an ongoing pandemic.
“A small congregation of worshippers will hold a Good Friday service at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, a year after it was devastated by fire, but attendance will be limited because of a lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak,” France24 reported Tuesday, noting that this is the first time any worshippers or clergy have gathered in the cathedral since a fire, which started on the roof, devastated the centuries-old church.
The Archibishop of Paris says the service, which will involve no more than 20 people, all practicing appropriate social distancing, will be broadcast across the globe online: “Only a few priests will attend the masses that we will celebrate during the Holy Week and people will be able to follow services on radio or on television.”
During the broadcast, the Archbishop will display the Cathedral’s prized relic, the crown of thorns, thought to be the original crown of thorns worn by Jesus during his trials at the hands of Roman soldiers just hours before his crucifixion and death.
Good Friday, of course, is the worldwide commemoration of the Jesus Christ’s death and a solemn holiday for the world’s Christians. Easter celebrations follow on Sunday, the third day after Jesus’s death on the cross, when Christians believe Christ was resurrected.
Catholic News Agency collected further details of the service, which will begin at 11:30am, Paris time.
“Archbishop Aupetit will lead a meditation on the Passion of Christ inside the cathedral in the apse behind Notre-Dame’s Pietà. He will be joined by Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, rector of Notre-Dame and Auxiliary Bishop Denis Jachiet,” the outlet reports. “French actors Philippe Torreton and Judith Chemla will read texts by Charles Péguy, Paul Claudel, and St. Teresa of Calcutta, while violinist Renaud Capuçon will provide musical accompaniment.”
The Archbishop originally planned a procession through the streets of Paris, as well, but that was scrapped over concerns about coronavirus, which has already claimed the lives of 8,900 people in France and has sickened more than 100,000.
The service will come just shy of the one-year anniversary of the Notre Dame Cathedral blaze, which took place on April 15 of last year. Authorities now believe that an errant spark, from ongoing construction on the Cathedral’s roof, set off the fire, which consumed most of the Cathedral’s roof and its trademark spire but, miraculously, left much of Notre Dame intact.
Restoration work is ongoing on the 500-year-old structure, but much of it ground to a halt with a coronavirus-related lockdown, ordered by the French government. When the lockdown is lifted, construction workers plan to finally remove miles of scaffolding from the roof, much of which was fused together in the fire and has to be cut apart and lowered to the ground.
French president Emanuel Macron has pledged that the Cathedral will open to the public again in as little as five years.