When I woke up this morning I felt a strange sensation, like something was not right, a kind of melancholy, and then I remembered the images I had seen last night of the devastating fire in Paris at the beloved cathedral of Notre Dame. I had been to dinner with Ella Sullivan, a niece working at EWTN as an intern, when a friend walked in the restaurant and asked if we had heard about Paris. I said I’d seen a cryptic FB message from a friend – “So sad about the Notre Dame fire” – but had not pursued it.
I then got out my phone and images and reports were everywhere we turned. We had no words! No words can do justice to an image that shocks your entire system, mind, body and soul. As I later wrote my sister Gail, it seemed as if we were watching the trailer for a film – this could not be real life!
I have followed events throughout the day on television. The absolute best, most complete coverage is, as you might imagine, on France 24, the English language satellite French news channel.
Last night the images were devastating and we all asked: Will Notre Dame be standing in the morning? The very ferocity of the flames left little room for doubt. You saw and heard the doubt and fear of those standing not far from the cathedral and watching this beloved icon go up in flames.
This morning, the blackened walls of the cathedral, the iconic twin bell towers, the main facade, the basic stone structure – inside and out – were still indeed standing, miraculously standing, as was the scaffolding erected for much-needed restoration of this grande dame of churches.
As the sun rose and the day went on, you could see hope and relief in faces and hear it in people’s voices as they spoke to various media outlets.
One woman told French TV: “I have hope because the lady is still standing.”
As the expression goes, “Hope is the last to die!”
I first saw Notre Dame many decades ago, as a student in college as our group travelled through Europe to reach Fribourg, Switzerland where we would study French for a year. We went back during the academic year and, in the summer following classes in Fribourg, two cousins and I spent 3 weeks in Paris as we wanted to perfect our language skills.
For many years I returned to France, to Paris, as a French teacher and group leader bringing students overseas on study abroad programs. The majesty, the history, the breathtakingly stunning stained glass windows, the beauty of the myriad works of art, the sculptures, both inside and out, the works by gold and silver smiths, the awesome organ – everything about Notre Dame penetrates your being. Bigger than life. A long and beautiful story told in stones and colored glass.
Notre Dame – a cathedral symbolizing almost a millennia of Catholic faith.
Notre Dame – a glorious tribute by hundreds of the world’s best artists to the glory of God.
Notre Dame – a masterpiece whose very name pays tribute to the Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady, Notre Dame.
With Our Lady watching over it, we know that Notre Dame will rise again.
As her Son rose after His passion and death – Easter Sunday, the Resurrection!
NOTRE DAME FIRE: HOLY SEE EXPRESSES SHOCK AND SADNESS
The interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, issued a brief statement in reaction to the devastating fire that engulfed the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday evening.
“The Holy See has heard with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world. We express our closeness to French Catholics and the people of Paris. We assure our prayers for the firemen and all those who are doing everything possible to deal with this dramatic situation.”
PAPAL TELEGRAM TO ARCHBISHOP OF PARIS
The following telegram was sent by Pope Francis to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris:
“Following the fire that devastated much of the Notre-Dame cathedral, I associate myself with your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the French. In these Holy Days where we remember Jesus’ passion, his death and his resurrection, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and my prayer.
“This disaster seriously damaged a historic building. But I realize that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their beliefs. For Notre-Dame is the architectural jewel of a collective memory, the gathering place for many major events, the witness of the faith and prayer of Catholics in the city.
“While saluting the courage and the work of the fire-fighters who intervened to circumscribe the fire, I express the wish that the Notre-Dame cathedral can become again, thanks to the works of reconstruction and the mobilization of all, this beautiful treasure chest in the heart of the city, sign of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France and humanity.
“With this hope, I cordially grant you the apostolic blessing, as well as the Bishops of France and the faithful of your diocese, and I call the blessing of God on the inhabitants of Paris and all the French.” FRANCISCUS PP.
NOTRE DAME FIRE: POPE FRANCIS EXPRESSES CLOSENESS, ASSURES PRAYERS
Pope Francis is praying for the Catholics of France, as well as for the people of Paris and all those striving to cope with the fire that ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday evening.
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Alessandro Gisotti, the interim Director of the Vatican Press Office, expressed Pope Francis’ closeness to the people of France.
The Pope, he said, is praying for “all those who are striving to cope with this tragic situation.”
Soon after the blaze started on Monday evening, Gisotti tweeted the Holy See’s “shock and sadness”, calling the Cathedral of Notre Dame “a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world”.
Fire broke out in Paris’ 860-year-old Cathedral on Monday evening, tearing through its timbered roofing and causing its storied spire to collapse.
The inferno raged for more than 12 hours before hundreds of firefighters were able to bring it under control. One firefighter was injured as he battled the flames.
The blaze started in the area around the spire, where workmen had been carrying out extensive renovations to the roof and the spire’s wooden frame.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the cause of the fire. Police sources told Reuters that they were working under the assumption that the fire was accidental.
What was saved?
Only the Gothic masterpiece’s outer walls, façade, and twin bell towers remain standing. Its famous pipe organ, dating back to the 1730s, also survived intact.
Firefighters reportedly saved many of the treasures housed inside.
Notre Dame’s Rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, said the Crown of Thorns – which tradition holds was worn by Jesus during his Passion – and the tunic believed to have been worn by St. Louis, the 13th century king of France, were rescued from the flames.
‘United in sorrow’
Messages of solidarity and sorrow are pouring in from around the world.
The Bishops of France said Notre Dame’s influence “extends beyond the capital” and that it would remain “a major symbol of the Catholic faith”. They also invited Catholics around the world to “be living stones of the Church,” especially as the faithful journey through Holy Week and look to the hope of Christ’s Resurrection.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said New Yorkers are united in sorrow with Parisians. “This Holy Week teaches us that, like Jesus, death brings life. Today’s dying, we trust, will bring rising,” he said on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
The spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, said the fire was “a huge loss for all humanity,” calling the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris “one of the most important monuments in the world.”
NOTRE DAME FIRE: POPE JOINS PARIS IN SORROW, VATICAN OFFERS TECHNICAL EXPERTISE
Pope Francis expresses his sorrow to the Archbishop of Paris, and the people of France, for the fire that devastated Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, as the Vatican offers technical assistance for the historic sanctuary’s reconstruction.
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)
“Following the fire that ravaged a large part of Notre Dame Cathedral, I join you in your sorrow, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris, and all the French people.”
Pope Francis sent those words of solidarity to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris on Tuesday.
He assured all the people of France of his spiritual closeness and prayers during Holy Week, as the Church recalls Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
National symbol damaged
“This disaster,” he wrote, “caused serious damage to a historic building.”
“But,” the Pope went on, “I recognize that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French people, in the diversity of their convictions.”
He called Notre Dame “an architectural jewel of a collective memory,” and said it was “the location of many great events and a testimony to the faith and prayer of the city’s Catholics.
Hope for the future
Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the courage of the firemen who intervened to contain the blaze and his hope that it returns to its former glory.
“May Notre Dame Cathedral once again become – thanks to reconstruction efforts and the mobilization of all – a sign of the faith of those who built it”.
He said the 860-year-old sanctuary represents “the architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, of France, and of all humanity.”
Vatican offers expertise
Also on Tuesday, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi offered the Vatican’s technical know-how to help rebuild Notre Dame.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Culture told reporters that the Holy See could take part in some specific area of the reconstruction, making reference to the technical expertise of the Vatican Museums.
We have the type of know-how that the whole world recognizes as being of a high quality,” said Cardinal Ravasi. “So I think an eventual future offer by the Holy See will be significant.”