After the fireplace in Nantes Cathedral, the volunteer was arrested however not recognized as a suspect
A 39-year-old cathedral volunteer was arrested as part of the arson investigation after a major fire in Nantes Cathedral on Saturday. The French authorities warned of a "premature" sentence by the detainee.
“We have to be careful when interpreting this police custody. It's a normal procedure, ”prosecutor Pierres Sennès said on Sunday, according to the BBC News.
The July 18 fire is said to be arson, Sennes said. Three fires were started on the site. The volunteer was responsible for closing the cathedral on Friday evening. Investigators want to "clear certain elements of that person's schedule," the prosecutor told Agence France Presse.
Sennes said: "Any interpretation that this person might include in the fact-finding is premature and premature."
At 7.44am, firefighters were called into the 15th century cathedral. On Saturday, according to the French broadcaster BFM TV. Over 100 firefighters were on site and saved the main structure. The Diocese of Nantes said the rosette window of the 16th century cathedral and the choir organ had been severely damaged. Several priceless artifacts were destroyed in the fire.
There was no sign of a break-in. One of the fires could be connected to an "electric meter," and investigators consider a short circuit to be another possible cause, reports the French newspaper Le Parisien.
The detained man, a refugee from Rwanda, was not named. Quentin Chabert, his lawyer, said there was "currently nothing that could connect my client to the fire." He said the investigation should continue "with respect for the rights of everyone, especially my client."
A cathedral official emphatically denied the possibility of the man being linked to the fire.
"I don't think for a second that he could have set fire to the cathedral. It's a place he loves," said Jean-Charles Nowak, an employee at the cathedral, to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
Nowak described the detained volunteer as "a man of duty". He left Rwanda a few years ago where he "suffered a lot". The volunteer, who has health problems, has had discussions with local officials about extending his visa.
Fire chief Laurent Ferlay told French television station BFM on July 18 that the damage to the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes was concentrated on the organ, which appears to be completely destroyed. The platform is very unstable and could collapse. "
He said the fire was not as heavy as the one that hit Notre Dame 15 months ago and the damage was less.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised the firefighters' work on Twitter on Saturday. "Helping our firefighters take all the risks to save this gothic city of the Dukes," he said, using a common name of honor for Nantes.
Nantes Cathedral was damaged in 1944 by Allied bombings. The roof of the cathedral in Gothic style was destroyed in a major fire in 1971. The cathedral was then extensively restored.
The Diocese of Nantes said on July 18 that the cathedral was "an architectural masterpiece" and "above all the mother church of the diocese".
Vandalism and attacks on Christian churches in France shocked Catholics and raised fears of an intentional conspiracy to intimidate and destroy them. However, crimes of this kind in France have not turned out to be the result of a coordinated campaign or even common motives.
American journalist and author Richard Bernstein pondered on attacks and vandalism by French churches in a July 2019 article for RealClearInvestigations entitled "Antichristian attacks in France." Why?"
Of the identified perpetrators of anti-Christian attacks, more than 60 percent are minors. Many perpetrators "appear to be more dissatisfied young people, mentally disturbed or homeless than members of organized groups that advance a political agenda," said Bernstein.
From January to March 2019, there were 228 “violent anti-Christian acts” at the conference of the French bishops.
In 2018, French police reported 129 thefts and 877 vandalism in Catholic locations, mainly in churches and cemeteries. The number of such attacks has quadrupled from 2008 to 2019.
While France has suffered more such attacks than any other country in Europe, the number has increased across Europe.
Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, head of the French Bishops' Conference, warned in an interview with Le Point magazine against developing a “discourse on persecution”.
While some commentators say that anti-Christian sentiments are driving the attacks, others say that "loss of sense of the sacred" is to blame, Bernstein reported.
The fire on April 15, 2019 at Notre-Dame cathedral shocked the world when the roof and tower from the 19th century were destroyed, although the structure was saved from collapse.
Once the fire was reported, social media influencers and others, often without presence, speculation, rumors, and even jokes, claimed that the fire was an act of terrorism. Anonymous internet accounts as well as right-wing activists, nationalists and white supremacists used the event to promote the anti-Muslim mood, NBC News reported in April 2019.
Notre Dame fire investigators were unable to access the part of the building where they thought the fire started. They have found no evidence of a deliberate fire and are based on the theory that it was accidentally caused by an electrical short or an improperly extinguished cigarette.
In the United States, some Catholics are nervous after a flood of attacks on churches and Catholic statues.
In Los Angeles, a major fire in the historic church of the San Gabriel Mission is being investigated for arson by local and federal authorities. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of a fire on July 11th, which destroyed the roof of the 249-year-old church and much of the historic church building. Since the Mission Church was being renovated, many of its historical and prayer objects had been removed and were not inside when the building was on fire.
The fire also comes after numerous statues of St. Junipero Serra in California have been demolished: in the state capital in Sacramento, in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, while demonstrators have called for similar statues to be moved or torn down in other cities. While Serra, a Franciscan mission priest, is considered the founder of California and a native evangelist, some critics say he was involved in human rights abuses in the 18th century. His followers say that Serra defended the rights and dignity of the indigenous people.
Serra specifically campaigned for Indigenous Rights and once designed a 33-point Bill of Rights for Native Americans living in the mission settlements. He went all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the Viceroy. Many of the natives he converted cried and mourned for him when he died in 1784.
Pope Francis sanctified Serra in Washington, DC on September 23, 2015, saying: "Junípero wanted to defend the dignity of the local community to protect them from those who mistreated and abused them."
Also in July, a man in the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, crashed a minivan into the church and lit it with gasoline as people prepared for morning service. A 24-year-old man was arrested by the police and charged with attempted murder, arson, burglary, and evasive arrest.
According to local media, the man told the police that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but is currently not taking prescribed medication. Previously, he was arrested in 2019 for shooting a woman with a crowbar.