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15.06.2019 Europe

Notre Dame: Majority of millions pledged yet to materialise

By RFI
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
JUN 15, 2019 EUROPE

Hundreds of millions of euros were pledged to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral after it was gutted by fire in April. Yet two months on, only a fraction of that amount has been received, French media reported Friday. The revelations come as the landmark church prepares to hold its first mass on Saturday.

Out of the 850 million euros pledged to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral, well-doers had only donated 9 percent of that sum on Friday, French media reported, essentially 80 million euros.

Six hundred and fifty million was pledged to four structures tasked with rebuilding the century-old building: the Fondation de France, which funds charitable causes, Fondation du patrimoine, which funds French heritage projects, the Fondation Notre-Dame, a Catholic-run charity, and the National Monument Centre.

A further two hundred million was pledged directly to the French state.

France's wealthiest individuals and companies promised the bulk of the money.

François-Henri Pinault, the 56-year-old CEO of Paris-based luxury goods group Kering, which owns brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, said his family would give around 100 million euros.

The largest pledge came from Bernard Arnault, 70, whose family owns the luxury conglomerate LVMH. The Arnault family and LVMH pledged 200 million euros.

The two benefactors have said they would make their donations gradually, according to estimates for the cost of reconstruction.

Donors pull out
The pair may wish to limit their outpouring of generosity after being accused by some charities and politicians of donating lavishly to benefit from tax breaks. They blasted the allegations as "petty" at the time.

Another reason perhaps why donations have been slow to trickle in, is due to the fact that some individuals changed their minds about giving due to the success of the fundraising effort.

Offers of help with the reconstruction poured in from around the globe, and soon hit the 1 billion mark, forcing some individuals to reconsider donating their money to other charitable causes.

However, according to the foundations concerned, this setback won't have an impact on the reconstruction effort, because "they are not at the last million," they said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to reconstruct the historic building which took a century to build after construction started in 1160, within five years.

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