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During Notre Dame rebuild, "ephemeral" wooden cathedral to be constructed in esplanade, chief priest says

Bells ring in tribute to Notre Dame
Paris churches ring bells in tribute to Notre Dame as France plans rebuilding 01:33

Catholic worshipers feeling orphaned by the fire that ravaged part of Notre Dame will be welcomed in an "ephemeral cathedral" of wood in front of the Paris monument until it reopens, Notre Dame's chief priest said Thursday.

Speaking to France's CNews television channel, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said: "We mustn't say 'the cathedral is closed for five years' and that's it."

To give the faithful somewhere to congregate next to Notre Dame, he suggested: "Can I not build an ephemeral cathedral on the esplanade (in front of Notre Dame)?"

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo had backed the idea and agreed to give over part of the esplanade to the church for a wooden structure, he said.

Chauvet said the wooden "cathedral" would host priests who could address some of the millions of tourists who throng the original 850-year-old Gothic cathedral each year.

On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron said he aimed to rebuild Notre-Dame within five years.

The government said it would launch an international architecture contest to replace the famous spire, which came crashing down during Monday's inferno, along with a large part of the roof.

Chauvet said the surrogate "cathedral" would be erected quickly, as soon as the esplanade reopens after work to secure the cathedral is completed.

A daylong tribute to the firefighters who fought the flames and saved cultural treasures from Monday's blaze, was planned for Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to host firefighters and share "words of thanks." A second celebration was planned later at Paris City Hall.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the fire continued. Paris prosecutors were conducting interviews and said that, while they were not ruling anything out, it appeared the blaze was accidentally caused by renovation works.

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