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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A senior military officer and practicing Catholic has been tapped to oversee the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral.
On Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced his choice of Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin to lead the rebuilding of the Paris landmark, after Monday's fire destroyed its roof, spire and some of its interior.
"After the fire at Notre-Dame-de-Paris, the President of the Republic made a number of decisions," the president's office stated. "He asked the government to take all measures as soon as possible to ensure national participation and carry out the work to restore the cathedral."
"He appointed Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin as his special representative responsible for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame-de-Paris. The general will begin his work starting tomorrow," the statement continued.
The 70-year-old general agreed to come out of retirement to do the job, after leaving his post in 2016 as grand chancellor of the Legion of Honor, the order created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward French citizens of merit.
"It's a matter of the will," Georgelin said when questioned Wednesday about Macron's deadline — seen as unrealistic — of five years to complete the restoration.
Georgelin, a Benedictine oblate and a member of the Catholic Academy of France, has been called a "fervent Catholic," highly cultured and also imposing and opinionated.
"He is also a man of culture and a very deep but not very ostentatious faith," wrote Jean-Dominique Merchet, a personal friend.
He served in the highest military role possible in France, as Chief of Defense Staff under President Nicolas Sarkozy. Before that, he served as Chief of Staff to President Jacques Chirac, leading military operations in the Ivory Coast, Aghanistan and Lebanon.
Georgelin has close ties to the United States. In the 1980s, he attended and graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, before going on to study at the Institute of Higher National Defence Studies in Paris.
His honors include being made Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Grand Officer of Monaco's Order of Saint-Charles, Commander of the U.S. Legion of Merit, Grand Officer of Portugal's Order of Aviz, Commander of Spain's Order of Isabella the Catholic, Grand Officer of Italy's Order of Merit, as well as membership in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, among many others.
On Thursday, Macron paid tribute to the 250 firefighters who worked to save Notre Dame from destruction.
"The country and the entire world were watching us and you were exemplary," Macron told the men gathered at the Elysee Palace. "You were the perfect example of what we should be."
Father Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain to the firefighters, gained worldwide attention Monday for rushing into the burning cathedral to save the Sacred Hosts, Crown of Thorns and many precious relics and works of art.
"Father Fournier is an absolute hero," said one Paris emergency serviceman. "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."
The firefighters are being awarded France's golden Medal of Honor for what Macron called their "courage and devotion."