As the flames engulfed the historic cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris last night, firefighters fought to make a passage for one special mission of mercy – the rescue of the Blessed Sacrament and relics from the historic church.
It has emerged that the priest who administered the last rites to the victims of the Bataclan terrorist attack in 2015 entered Notre-Dame with the firefighters at the height of the blaze.
Fr Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, saved the Blessed Sacrament and the reliquary containing the Crown of Thorns from the burning cathedral on Monday night when he bravely went in with firefighters.
“Fr Fournier is an absolute hero,” a member of the emergency services was quoted as saying on French television this afternoon.
“He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”
Etienne Loraillere, an editor for France’s KTO Catholic television network, said Fr Fournier “went with the firefighters into Notre-Dame Cathedral to save the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament”.
But, now it has emerged that this is not the first time the priest has served the people of Paris during a national tragedy.
He went inside the Bataclan music venue in Paris on November 13, 2015, after terrorists from the so-called Islamic State murdered 89 people using guns and explosives.
The priest prayed over the dead and comforted those who were injured or had lost loved ones.
“I gave collective absolution, as the Catholic Church authorises me,” Fr Fournier said at the time.
Fr Fournier, who is in his 50s, started his career as Catholic priest in Germany, and then moved to the Sarthe department of France.
He joined the Armed Forces diocese in 2004, spending seven years working with the army all over the world.
In Afghanistan he survived an ambush in which 10 soldiers were killed.