Nearing Anniversary Of Devastating Fire, Notre Dame To Host A Good Friday Service : Coronavirus Live Updates April 15 will mark the first anniversary of the fire that ripped through the cathedral. The Paris archbishop says he wants to send a "message of hope" through a small Good Friday service.
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Nearing Anniversary Of Devastating Fire, Notre Dame To Host A Good Friday Service

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Nearing Anniversary Of Devastating Fire, Notre Dame To Host A Good Friday Service

Nearing Anniversary Of Devastating Fire, Notre Dame To Host A Good Friday Service

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To France now - that is where Notre Dame Cathedral came back to life today as a center of Easter prayer just days before the first anniversary of the fire that nearly destroyed the medieval structure. The Archbishop of Paris held a small Good Friday service amid its ruins. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Violinist Renaud Capucon was one of three non-religious participants in today's service that was celebrated by just seven people but broadcast to millions. Two French actors also sang and read poems, wearing protective suits and standing far apart.

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JUDITH CHEMLA: (Singing) Ave Maria.

KELLY: With Notre Dame's altar unreachable, the ceremony took place around the cathedral's greatest relic - Christ's crown of thorns brought to Notre Dame in the 13th century by King Louis IX. Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit says the Crown gives humanity hope.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHEL AUPETIT: (Through interpreter) This crown of thorns, saved from the fire, is a magnificent sign that you are with us during our greatest suffering in this pandemic, Lord, and that we are not alone.

BEARDSLEY: The cathedral is still very fragile. A gaping hole over the nave shows the open sky, and 300 tons of charred timbers and a tangle of melted scaffolding still weighs down the vaulted rooftop. Work to bring the debris down was supposed to start last month but had to be postponed because of the coronavirus. But the archbishop was determined to hold today's service in Notre Dame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AUPETIT: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: We come together in this half-collapsed cathedral to show that life continues, said Aupetit. Outside, on the usually jammed boulevard that runs along the Seine River, the bookseller stalls are closed, and only a few cars and bicycles pass by. The new soundtrack of the city is bird calls and ambulance sirens. Seventy-year-old Hassen Benkace, who worked 30 years in a local restaurant, is standing nearby. He says he watched the cathedral burn and reads a poem he wrote about the fire from a tattered notebook.

HASSEN BENKACE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: I'm no Victor Hugo, he begins, and have no easy words for this fire. Benkace says Notre Dame is a link between heaven and earth and a cathedral that is a part of all of us.

BENKACE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: He thanks me for listening, saying it has lightened his burden. We have come together to rebuild Notre Dame, he says, and we will come together to defeat this virus, too. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF MIDORI HIRANO'S "SECRET ARIA ON THE PIANO")

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