On July 18th, the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Nantes, France was set ablaze and suffered severe fire damage to its organ, rose window, and nave.
The day after, Nantes’ public prosecutor Pierre Sennès detained a volunteer scheduled to close the cathedral the night before, but warned against any ‘premature’ judgement of guilt. He was released the same day, without charge.
However, yesterday Sennès said the 39-year old man, a refugee from Rwanda, was arrested again on “charges of destruction and damage by fire.” During questioning, the volunteer altar server confessed to lighting three fires in the cathedral.
While he was released without charge before, Sennès said developments in the investigation led to his rearrest, indictment, and detainment.
“He admitted during his first appearance for questioning before the investigating judge that he set three fires in the cathedral: at the main organ, the smaller organ, and the electrical panel. He has not elaborated in detail on his motivations.”
The man’s lawyer, Quentin Chabert, said: “my client is today consumed with remorse and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the events.”
“My client is cooperating. Obviously it was a relief for him to show, as he would say, his repentance. As a believer, it’s important for him to show this effort.”
In a statement after the fire, Diocesan Administrator of Nantes Father Francois Renaud said:
“For the Catholic community, this disaster is greeted with great sadness. The vocation of the mother church of the diocese is to bring it together in unity around its bishop. Everyone is at home here. How can we not think of our future bishop, who cannot be installed in his cathedral? The cathedral struck those who entered it with its light and the elevated gaze it elicited. She offered everyone peace conducive to recollection and prayer. We are deprived of our cathedral. But we are not deprived of the light and peace given to us by the Lord of this place. With or without a cathedral, our Church will know how to shine, I am sure.”
Renaud added that repair costs will be primarily covered by the French government, who owns the cathedral.
The man faces up to ten years in prison and $175,000 in fines.