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French MPs Approve Polarizing Notre Dame de Paris Reconstruction Bill

© REUTERS / PHILIPPE WOJAZERAn aerial view shows the damaged roof of Notre-Dame de Paris during restoration work, three months after a fire that devastated the cathedral in Paris
An aerial view shows the damaged roof of Notre-Dame de Paris during restoration work, three months after a fire that devastated the cathedral in Paris - Sputnik International
On Tuesday, French lawmakers approved legislation that looks to rebuild the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral by 2024. Opponents of the bill, however, urge patience regarding the holy building rather than rush to have it completed by the time the Summer Olympics begin in Paris.

Three months after flames engulfed Notre Dame de Paris, the French Parliament, controlled by La République En Marche party, passed a bill establishing a framework and tentative 2024 deadline for the reconstruction of the cathedral.

"The hardest thing is now ahead of us. We need to strengthen the cathedral forever and then restore it," the AFP reports Minister of Culture Franck Riester said Tuesday. He added that the "aim is to give Notre-Dame a restoration appropriate for the place it has in the hearts of the French people and in the entire world,"

Lawmakers skeptical of the bill say that there is an underlying rush to have the cathedral back in order by the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. President Emmanuel Macron specifically has voiced his desire to have the repairs completed within a five-year timeframe.

"Imposing a deadline of five years from on high makes no sense," Brigitte Kuster of the opposition Republicans told fellow MPs, AFP reports.

Nevertheless, the bill passed in the National Assembly with 91 MPs in favor, eight against and 33 abstentions.

The legislation is aiming to use donations totaling approximately 850 million euros ($954 million) to carry out the restoration efforts. According to Michel Picaud, the president of the charity Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, most of the donations coming in for the project are from France and the US.

Despite a large number of small cash donations, certain deep-pocketed donors, who made headlines for their pledges around the time of the April 15 blaze, have yet to make their words a reality. Some of the largest cash promises came from billionaires Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault, to the sum of 200 million and 100 million euros, respectively.

“The big donors haven't paid. Not a cent. They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees' salaries", Andre Finot, senior press official at Notre Dame, said last month.

One point of contention that remains unaddressed by the bill is the style that the cathedral will take on with the restoration. Many lawmakers have expressed concern over Macron’s openness to a “contemporary gesture” in reconstructing the building’s architecture.

Last month, clerics equipped with hardhats held the first service on location at the cathedral since the blaze, but Paris authorities are keeping the immediate area of the place of worship closed off due to the high levels of lead released by the roof’s collapse.

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