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‘He made straight for the relics’: Firefighter chaplain saves Crown of Thorns

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Providentially, his last name means "fire tender"

While the entire world is hailing the incredible work of the Paris firefighters, one man in particular — their chaplain — has found his way especially into the hearts of Catholics.

Father Jean-Marc Fournier entered the blaze with one mission: to save Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and to rescue the most treasured relics of Notre Dame, the crown of thorns believed to be the crown pounded into Christ’s head during the Passion, one of the nails of the crucifixion, and a piece of the Cross.

An emergency services source quoted by the Daily Mail said: “Father Fournier is an absolute hero.”

“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.”

While images of the inferno were broadcast, many who knew the treasures which Notre Dame protected held their breath for fear that the Crown of Thorns might be incinerated. The Crown, however, was the second stop for Father Fournier, after cleaning out the tabernacle and preserving the Blessed Sacrament.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Fr. Fournier has had to confront disaster and danger.

In 2015, during the Paris terrorist attack that killed 89 people at the Eagles of Death Metal concert, he was one of those who rushed in to tend to and console the wounded.

At the time of the shooting, Fr. Fournier simply commented. “I gave collective absolution, as the Catholic Church authorises me.”

Emergency situations are not a new experience for Fr. Fournier, 50, who joined the armed forces diocese in 2004 and spent seven years working with the army all over the world. During that time he was present for an ambush in Afghanistan which claimed the lives of 10 soldiers. Of his time in the army, he said:

“On my first trip to Afghanistan, I was seized by fear – everything I saw could potentially be dangerous, as we had learned during training courses.”

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