The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris celebrated Christmas every year during two world wars. But it will not hold a Christmas Catholic Mass in 2019.
An accidental fire on April 15 has quieted the 855-year old Cathedral.
Officials have moved its famous altar and other objects to another church in Paris called Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. It was once a royal church, where French kings worshipped. It is not far from Notre Dame, and just next to the Louvre.
Church officials are asking those devoted to Notre Dame to come there on Christmas, as rebuilding efforts continue.
A cathedral rector, Patrick Chauvet, said this year marks the “first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass” at Notre Dame. The French Revolution began in 1789 and continued until 1799.
There was even a Christmas service during the fighting of World War I, Chauvet noted. During World War II, Paris was under Nazi occupation, but “there was no problem,” he said.
Chauvet added that, to his knowledge, the cathedral only closed for Christmas for a few years after 1789. At that time, anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the church into a house “of reason,” he said.
Christmas Mass at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois this year will be historic.
We will “celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak... but with some indicators that Notre Dame is connected to us,” Chauvet said.
Those indicators include a wooden altar that has been built in the Saint-Germain church to appear similar to Notre Dame’s altar. Members of the Notre Dame choir will sing. The cathedral’s famous “Virgin of Paris” sculpture will also be there. The 14th-century masterpiece shows Mary and her baby Jesus.
It was not damaged in the fire. Chauvet remembers when he discovered the Virgin of Paris had survived the fire.
He was holding hands with French President Emmanuel Macron in front of the cathedral at the time. Later, they were able to look inside. Chauvet pointed and cried to Macron: “Look at the Virgin, she is there!”
He said later that Notre Dame’s workmen on the ground asked him not to take the statue from the cathedral. They told him that she has protected them during the repair efforts.
Chauvet said having it close for Christmas is comforting.
“She lived very much in Notre Dame. She watched …all the 35,000 visitors a day ... It keeps us going,” Chauvet said.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
Mass – n. a Catholic religious service
altar – n. the table in the Christian Church where the bread and wine is prepared
cathedral - n. large Catholic Church
devoted - adj. being loyal to
rector – n. a priest
indicator – n. a thing that suggest something
comfort - v. to be reassured, warmed