Billionaires Facing Backlash For Pledging To Help Rebuild Notre Dame After Fire

Dan KitwoodGetty Images

Millions of people around the world watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral burned earlier this week in a disastrous fire. The beautiful cathedral is more than 800-years-old and was the home of famous works of art that have played a role in history. It housed treasured religious relics, including the very crown of thorns that is believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ. Within only hours of the fire, wealthy figures from Paris and beyond came forward to offer to help pay for the renovation of the beloved landmark. These donors are now facing backlash from those that believe the money could be better used elsewhere, according to the East Bay Times.

Notre Dame is said to be worth billions and it will likely cost billions more to restore it to its former glory. Because the tragic fire was so recent, officials are still at work accessing the damage and determining just how much can be salvaged. It could be a while before the actual cost of a full restoration is revealed. However, many are already talking numbers in regard to the eventual rebuild.

Luxury goods magnate Francois-Henri Pinault was among those who stepped up to pledge funds to assist in the rebuilding process. He said that he and his family would give 100 million euros to be used to repair Notre Dame. This hefty sum translates to $112 million dollars. He’s not without competition however, with Bernard Arnult, the richest man in Europe, pledging twice Pinault’s amount. The Bettencourt Meyers family of beauty brand L’Oreal, as well as Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of French oil company Total, also pledged millions.

Although these wealthy donors likely meant well, journalists and commentators questioned if the millions would be better spent assisting the poor and fighting against social injustices in France.

Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, questioned the donor’s motives.

“If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre-Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency.”

Similarly, Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted out in criticism of the restoration movement.

“In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre-Dame. In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.”

However, French writer Caroline Fourest was more understanding of those who are determined to do whatever is necessary to repair the landmark.

“It’s not the same loss or the same anguish, because no one died. But with Notre-Dame, we were afraid of losing a part of the beauty that makes living in Paris so sweet,” she said.