Paris police quickly ruled out arson and terrorism as the cause of the blaze that engulfed Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral Monday evening, initially investigating it as “involuntary destruction caused by fire.”
Five companies were hired to work on renovations to the cathedral’s roof where the flames first broke out, the Associated Press reported Tuesday morning, and the working theory has been that a spark from construction equipment ignited the fire.
However, “the work had not started yet, only the scaffolding were being assembled,” François Chatillon, the chief architect of historical monuments in charge of the restoration of the spire, reportedly told Le Monde. “The hypothesis of the hot spot (caused by a weld) is not the right one,” he said.
Investigators have already questioned 15 construction workers who were working on the scaffolding of the iconic cathedral.
Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz opened a preliminary investigation early Monday evening “and entrusted the investigations to regional direction of the judicial police,” Le Point reported. “Less than two hours later, the qualification of “involuntary destruction by fire” was stopped,” although, Heitz said during a Tuesday press conference that “nothing goes in the direction of a voluntary act.”
Heitz told reporters, “We are favoring the theory of an accident,” and said fifty investigators were working on a “long” and “complex” probe into what caused the blaze.
While it probably was an accident, it is worth pointing out that it happened during Holy Week–the holiest week of the liturgical year– amid a disturbing wave of anti-Christian attacks on Catholic churches throughout France.
In just one week in March, a dozen churches were desecrated in different regions of France in what appeared to be “obvious” cases of anti-Christian vandalism, according to ABC Internacional, a conservative Spanish daily paper.
“In Nîmes (Gard), the Notre-Dame-des-Enfants church was desecrated in a particularly odious way: strangers painted a cross with human excrement, looted the main altar and the tabernacle and stole the wafers , which were later discovered among piles of waste, ” the Spanish daily reported.
Other churches vandalized in March included Dijon (Côte-d’Or), Lavaur (Tarn), Maisons-Laffitte and Houilles (Yvelines), and desecrations had “an obvious anti-Christian character,” ABC reported.
Breitbart reported on the spate of church desecrations, last month:
… the church of Notre-Dame in Dijon, in the east of the country, suffered the sacking of the high altar and the hosts were also taken from the tabernacle, scattered on the ground, and trampled.
In Lavaur, in the southern department of the Tarn, the village church was assaulted by young men, who twisted one arm of a representation of the crucified Christ to make it appear that he was making an obscene gesture.
In the peripheries of Paris, in the department of Yvelines, several churches have suffered profanations of varying importance, in Maisons-Laffitte and in Houilles.
Additionally, on Sunday, March 10, the church of St. Vincent de Naintre in the Vienne was reportedly vandalized and desecrated, as well as the evangelical church “Hope & Life” in Angouleme on in the early morning hours of of March 9.
“Drunk with fierce hatred, vandals want to give their deeds an anti-religious dimension,” ABC lamented.
On March 17, the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris was set ablaze shortly after the twelve-o’clock Mass, Evangeliques Info reported. The fire was quickly controlled by firefighters, but resulted in damages that will reportedly cost several hundred million euros.
THE SAINT SULPICE IN PARIS JUST IGNITED WHILE I WAS INSIDE pic.twitter.com/40PHCZ177w
— lil g (@lili_gasparr) March 17, 2019
Investigators have concluded that the fire was the result of arson and are now looking for suspects, Evangeliques Info reported.
Saint Denis, an over 800-year-old Basilica in a northern suburb of Paris was also heavily vandalized in March, resulting in smashed stained glass windows and a severely damaged nearly 200-year-old organ, which has been recognized as a historic monument of significance in France. The tombs of many French Kings including Charles Martel are housed at the Saint-Denis Basilica.
Christian Basilica in Paris No-Go Suburbs Heavily Vandalised https://t.co/ErYFQv6h9Y
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 9, 2019
A 41-year-old Pakistani migrant is facing charges for vandalizing the basilica, Breitbart reported on Tuesday.
The Pakistani origin male, who had arrived in France only two months ago, will stand trial in Bobigny next month, accused of causing serious damage to the main organ of the basilica as well as smashing stained glass windows in an apparent attack that took place in March, Le Parisien reports.
While in court for his initial hearing, the Pakistani, who does not speak any French, said through a translator: “I do not know how I am concerned with this case.”
When asked if he would like time to prepare his defence, he told the court he did not understand the French justice system.
According to the court, the man had already been accused of vandalism of property in February and that his DNA had been found in the basilica by investigators which led to his arrest.
In the face of all the recent anti-Christian vandalism, “the religious hierarchy prefers to keep a modest silence,” ABC Internacional noted in its March report.
According figures released by French police, 875 of France’s 42,258 churches were vandalized last year, and 129 churches reported thefts from the premises, the Sun reported.
On top of that, 59 cemeteries were vandalized, according to France’s Ministry of the Interior.
In 2018, the interior ministry reportedly recorded 541 anti-Semitic acts, 100 anti-Muslim acts, and 1063 anti-Christian acts in France.