Over $1 billion USD has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, after the French president set a controversial five-year deadline to get the work done.
Construction teams brought in a huge crane and a delivery of planks of wood to the site on Wednesday April 17th. Firefighters are still examining damage and shoring up the structure after Monday’s fire collapsed the cathedral’s spire and destroyed the roof.
Bells tolled at cathedrals around France on Wednesday evening in honor of the monument. Remarkably, no one was killed in the fire, after firefighters and church officials speedily evacuated the site during a mass.
French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up the pressure by setting a five-year deadline to restore the 12th-century landmark. Macron held a special Cabinet meeting on Wednesday April 17th dedicated to the Notre Dame disaster, which investigators believe was an accident possibly linked to renovation works carried out on site.
The French government is gathering donations and setting up a special office to deal with big-ticket offers.
However, some criticism has already surfaced among those in France who say the money could be better spent elsewhere, on smaller struggling churches or workers.
Local groups claim that more than one billion dollars have been raised practically overnight to rebuild Notre Dame, despite that the cathedral is still standing and the Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest organizations in the world, with a net worth of over 35 billion USD; while nobody is donating any money to help the 140,000 homeless people living in that country, including 30,000 children.
France, like most European countries, has seen a rise in homelessness in the past decade, fueled by the fallout from the global financial crisis. An influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East has also seen numbers increase on European streets.
According to France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), more than 12,000 people sleep on the streets of France. According to the same body, in the French capital of Paris, roughly 463,000 people live below the poverty line. They have an average monthly income of €747, which is €261 below the poverty threshold.
In 2018, 566 homeless people died nationwide, according to the charity Les Morts de la Rue. More than 100 of these were in Paris alone.
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