Notre Dame, Rector
Notre Dame Cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet

The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has admitted there is still only a 50 percent chance the fire-ravaged landmark can be saved.

Msgr. Patrick Chauvet said he is already suffering “heartache” because April’s blaze meant the 12th-century cathedral was unable to hold Christmas services for the first time in more than 200 years.

But he said he is bracing for even more potential distress after the church’s support scaffolding is removed — likely in 2021 — and officials learn whether the structure’s surviving vaults are strong enough to keep the Gothic monument standing.

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“Today it is not out of danger,” Chauvet said the beloved landmark, speaking on Christmas Eve before midnight Mass in a nearby church.

“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50 percent chance that it will be saved. There is also a 50 percent chance of scaffolding falling onto the three [surviving] vaults,” he said. “So as you can see, the building is still very fragile.”

The 855-year-old landmark was under renovation when a fire ravaged it in April, destroying its roof and collapsing its spire. Without a roof to keep it stable, the vulnerable vaults are crucial to keeping it standing.

Removing the support scaffolding will be the ultimate test for the salvage attempts.

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While actual restoration may start in 2021, it will likely take another three years after that to make sure the church is safe enough for people to re-enter, Chauvet said, with the full restoration taking longer still.

Adding to the difficulties, authorities still have to clear up tons of toxic lead dust and then assess the health risks.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants the cathedral rebuilt “even more beautifully” by 2024 when Paris hosts the Olympics, a time frame many experts say is unrealistic.

Parishioners are determined to see it return to former glory.

“We are French, we are going to try to rebuild Notre Dame as it was before because it is a symbol,” said Jean-Luc Bodam, a Parisian engineer who was left crying when he first saw April’s blaze.

Source: New York Post

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