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Notre Dame aftermath: Northern Ireland priest tells of sombre mood in Paris

Father Aidan Troy
Father Aidan Troy
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

A former Belfast priest has said if the fire that destroyed Notre Dame had happened days later - when the Cathedral would have been packed with worshippers for Holy Week - the consequences could have been catastrophic.

Father Aidan Troy was priest at Holy Cross parish in Ardoyne and is now based at St Joseph's Parish in the French capital. Originally from Co Wicklow, Fr Troy said that he is devastated.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "We are still in a state of shock, in almost disbelief about what has happened.

"I was in Notre Dame last week, a few days before I went back to Northern Ireland. I went in to say a prayer before I travelled. I was due to join the Mass there on Wednesday evening for the blessing of the oils. It's terribly, terribly sad.

"It's like my local parish church burnt down. Besides my own church I would have went to Mass and confession at Notre Dame regularly.

"Even though it was iconic for 14 million visitors, it wasn't just a Catholic church, it was a building open to everyone.

"Of all weeks, Holy Week, this is doubly poignant. All the ceremonies, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, vigil, Easter Sunday Mass will all have to be relocated.

"The biggest thing for me, though, is that no life was lost. If it had happened a few days later, when the church was packed for the religious ceremonies as well as the tourists, it could have been horrendous."

Fr Troy said that the church held a very special place in his heart.

"I have said Mass at Notre Dame several times," he said.

Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 15, 2019. See PA story FIRE NotreDame. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Smoke is seen around the alter inside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)
The steeple of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. - A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP) (Photo credit should read GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
An aerial view of the fire raging at Notre Dame Cathedral. (Photo by - / AFP)-/AFP/Getty Images
Firemen inspect the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire in Paris, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral to establish next steps to save what remains after a devastating fire destroyed much of the almost 900-year-old building. With the fire that broke out Monday evening and quickly consumed the cathedral now under control, attention is turning to ensuring the structural integrity of the remaining building. (AP Photo/Christophe Enaa)
Flames and smoke are seen as the interior of the Notre-Dame Cathedral continues to burn on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. - A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze. (Photo by PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images
Flames rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A fire fighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Firefighters tackle the blaze as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People pray as Notre Dame cathedral burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Flames illuminate the night sky as Notre Dame cathedral burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Firefighters use hoses as Notre Dame cathedral burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Firefighters tackle the blaze as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Firefighters use hoses as Notre Dame cathedral burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A fire fighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
File photo dated 01/03/15 of the North Rose stained glass window at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France, which is feared to have been destroyed by fire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 15, 2019. See PA story FIRE NotreDame. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
A fire fighter gestures as a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People watch Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
People watch Notre Dame cathedral burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A fire fighter tackles the blaze as flames and smoke rise while Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A fire fighter tackles the blaze as flames and smoke rise while Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
(Lori Hinant/AP)
(AP)
(Thibault Camus/AP)
(Thibault Camus/AP)
(Thibault Camus/AP)
(Thibault Camus/AP)
(Lori Hinant/AP)
Thibault Camus/AP)
(Lori Hinnant/AP)
(Thibault Camus/AP)
(Michel Euler/AP)
Firefighters tackle the blaze at Notre Dame (Francois Mori/AP)
Smoke and flames coming from the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo credit: Ashley Huntington/Mercedes Girona/PA Wire
Handout photo taken with permission from the twitter feed of @slopezserra of smoke pouring from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is on fire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 15, 2019. See PA story FIRE NotreDame. Photo credit should read: @slopezserra/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Lori Hinant)
Handout video grab taken from the Twitter feed of @leistomania93 of smoke and flames coming from the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 15, 2019. See PA story FIRE NotreDame. Photo credit should read: @leistomania93/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Lori Hinant)
Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Lori Hinant)
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. - (Photo by Pierre Galey / AFP)PIERRE GALEY/AFP/Getty Images
The steeple collapses as smoke and flames engulf the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame Cathedral (Michel Euler/AP)
Firefighters tackle the blaze at Notre Dame (Thibault Camus/AP)
Crowds watch from a safe distance (Thibault Camus/AP)
Smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral (Lori Hinnant/AP)
Notre Dame Cathedral by the River Seine (Mike Egerton/PA)
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (David Davies/PA)

"A few weeks ago I was at a ceremony where they wanted the gospel read in English, so I did that and it was a great honour. And I began to realise while doing that, there is 850 years of history in this place, and here is little me."

Fr Troy said the atmosphere on the streets is sombre.

"People are praying and singing," he added. "There was a very sombre mood. It was a mood that reflected how shocked people felt, and we know in Northern Ireland how that feels.

"I thought President Macron spoke very well on Monday night. He said that we will rebuild and standing beside him in the pictures was the Archbishop of Paris, with just a grey clerical shirt on him. And I thought, what an image.

"There you had church and state. And after all the tortured history surrounding the separation of church and state, when something as big as the Notre Dame fire happened they were standing shoulder to shoulder.

"And it made us think that everyone has to be in this together, that humanity will try and do this."

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