50% chance still fragile Notre Dame cathedral might not be saved, official says

PARIS (AP/Gray News) - On the first Christmas in centuries without a service inside Notre Dame Cathedral, the rector of the Paris landmark says the building is still so fragile that it might not be entirely saved.

This photo taken on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, shows Notre Dame Cathedral lit up at night in Paris. (Source: AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Monsignor Patrick Chauvet says reconstruction work after this year’s fire probably won’t start until 2021. Experts must first remove scaffolding that was on the cathedral before the fire because the scaffolding is threatening the vaults.

“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he told the Associated Press.

Chauvet also spoke of his “heartache” at not being able to celebrate Christmas services inside Notre Dame for the first time in more than 200 years.

Midnight mass was instead held at the Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois Church across from the Louvre Museum.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for reconstruction of Notre Dame to be completed within five years, but some experts feel that timeline is too ambitious.

“It’s exceptional. This hasn’t happened for 850 years, such a blaze. The tricky part is to know how to go as fast as possible without going too fast because you have to make sure that everything will stand and will stand for at least another 850 years,” said Father Brice de Malherbe, Notre Dame chaplain, in an interview with CNN.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press and Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.