Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that the outpouring of support her city has received in wake of the fire at Notre Dame cathedral shows that the famous church is not just a religious symbol, but “a monument and a place that belongs to everyone who loves Paris.”
Speaking with journalists from the Leading European Newspaper Alliance, Hidalgo recalled meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, Notre Dame’s rector Patrick Chauvet, and Jean-Claude Gallet, the general of the firefighters, as the fire raged nearby. The famous church’s spire had already fallen, and Gallet was explaining that 10 firefighters would have to climb into the cathedral’s iconic towers if they wanted to save those from destruction as well.
“The general said that action was needed to save the towers,” said Hidalgo, and that the 10 firefighters to be deployed would be taking an enormous risk. “It was a moment … Nobody speaks, we all trust him,” she said. “We will all remember that moment: his face and our own faces, together in a moment of reverence.”
In the end, they made the decision to risk the firefighters’ lives to save what remained of the church. Fortunately, they were successful and no lives were lost.
Within hours of the fire, wealthy individuals from across Europe helped raise more than $1 billion to restore the 1,000-year-old monument to its former glory. As a result, Hidalgo says, it should be possible to fix the church within five years. Asked what she thought about the disparity between the money pledged to fix Notre Dame and the relative lack of interest from the world’s richest families in contributing to the poor, Hidalgo insisted that charity was not a zero-sum game.
“They know I am in favor of redistribution policies and that I am a social-democrat who believes we live in a country and in a Europe where there is not enough social justice,” said Hidalgo. “But I also think it is important that the people with the most means, the large fortunes of France and the world, are deciding to contribute.”
Read the full story at El Pais.