Paris (AFP) – France’s culture minister pleaded Thursday for an end to the controversy over the 850 million euros (950 million dollars) pledged to restore Notre-Dame cathedral, which critics have suggested would be better spent on the poor.
Some of France’s biggest companies and billionaires, including luxury goods tycoons Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault, have pledged amounts of 100 million euros or more to rebuild the landmark after it was gutted by fire on Monday evening.
The vast sums have drawn fire in a country where wealth inequality and the plight of the low-income households have been highlighted during five months of demonstrations by “yellow vest” protesters.
“This pointless debate consists of saying ‘it’s too much money for Notre-Dame even though there are needs elsewhere’ — of course there’s a need for money for the social system, for health, the fight against climate change,” Culture Minister Franck Riester told RMC radio.
“But let’s leave this extraordinary show of generosity to run its course,” he pleaded.
He said Notre-Dame was “not only old stones. It’s a part of our identity, it’s our nation, European culture.”