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O’Malley praises South End cathedral renovations

Cardinal Sean O'Malley blessed the palms during Palm Sunday Mass at the renovated Holy Cross Cathedral in the South End.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said Tuesday he was thankful for the recent renovation of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, noting the fixup could prevent a fire like the one that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday.

O’Malley said “ancient wiring” had been found in the Boston cathedral and experts said, “It’s a miracle that the place didn’t burn down long ago.”

After a two-year, $26 million renovation, the main church reopened to the public on Palm Sunday, the Globe reported. The work included replacement and upgrading of the electrical wiring and fire protection systems.


“These old churches, if we don’t restore them and keep them up, eventually, we lose them,” O’Malley told reporters after the annual Chrism Mass at the historic church. “So we were very, very grateful that we were able to do this restoration at this point after 150 years.”

The Paris cathedral, a world landmark, caught fire Monday, and its iconic spire was destroyed, as well as its roof. The blaze burned for more than 12 hours, the Associated Press reported. The flames were out by Tuesday morning and its twin medieval bell towers remained visibly intact.

The cause of the fire might have been related to the renovations occurring at the historic church, officials said.

“I’m hoping that it can be restored, but I can only imagine the distress of the French people, particularly the people in Paris,” O’Malley said. “It was horrifying. I’m glad that they were able to save as much as they were because I thought that they would lose the entire structure.”

There have been churches on the site where Notre Dame stands since the year 400, O’Malley said. It holds items of historic and religious importance, including the relic believed to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ.


The “most precious treasures,” including the crown of thorns, were saved, officials said Tuesday.

O’Malley said Notre Dame has been “such an iconic place, and we will grieve at the loss of this and pray that they’ll be able to restore it, so that people will be able to be inspired and go there and visit and pray and feel the history that filled the place there for so many centuries.”

During the Chrism Mass, the cardinal delivers an annual speech to priests. O’Malley emphasized in his homily a message of love, hospitality, and friendship between priests and the people.

The message, conveyed to an audience in the pews of about 400 priests and more than 1,500 others, is especially important because of the “toxic polarization” in society now, he said.

“Against this background, I appeal to all of my brothers in the [clergy] to look into your own heart to see how we can be healers and builders of unity,” O’Malley said. “It takes a lot of patience, a lot of humility, a lot of love.”

Breanne Kovatch can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.