A French priest who helped comfort the wounded after the worst terrorist attack on Paris this century has emerged as the hero of the Notre-Dame fire.
Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, saved the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns from the burning cathedral on Monday night when he bravely went in with firefighters.
It had been feared that both religious artefacts would be lost to the raging fire which engulfed the iconic building.
“Father Fournier is an absolute hero,” a member of the emergency services said.
“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 Fournier “went with the firefighters into Notre Dame Cathedral to save the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament”.
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 13 November, 2015, after Islamic State terrorist 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,” Fournier said at the time.
Father 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.
The Crown of Thorns is purported to be a relic of the wreath of thorns placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. It was brought to Paris in 1238 by French monarch Louis IX.
The hallowed object was contained in an elaborate gold case which was stored in the cathedral’s treasury and is only occasionally displayed for people to see.