Notre Dame tragedy: coming to terms

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

As the world slowly comes to terms with the devastation caused by fire on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, reactions from all corners started pouring in, not least donations from millionaires who pledged enormous sums to help in the restoration of this iconic and timeless masterpiece of architecture.

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A church in solidarty

Pope Francis is offering his prayers that Notre Dame, the “architectural gem of a collective memory,” will once again be a shrine to the Catholic faith, a symbol of the French nation and a spiritual and architectural gift to humanity.

In a heartfelt note of condolences sent to Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, Francis said Tuesday that the fire was particularly devastating given that it came during Holy Week, the somber days leading up to Easter during which Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis wrote: “This catastrophe has gravely harmed a historic building. But I am aware that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the heart of Parisians and all French people in the diversity of their convictions. Because Notre Dame is the architectural gem of a collective memory, a place of gathering for great events, a witness of the faith and prayer of Catholics in the heart of the city.”

Pope Francis praised the courage of the firefighters and invoked his blessings on the nation.

Another hero of the hour was also a priest. Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of Paris fire brigade, is being hailed as a hero after taking part in the recovery of the crown of thorns at Notre Dame cathedral. Speaking to reporters at the cathedral, Paris’ 15th district mayor Philippe Goujon said Tuesday that Fournier insisted on being allowed to enter the edifice with fire fighters and played a role in the relic’s rescue.

Fournier’s bravery had been noted already after the November 2015 Bataclan attack, when he tended to the injured and prayed over the dead.

According to an interview he gave to Famiglia Cristiana magazine after that attack, Fournier was based in Germany and in the western Sarthe region, before joining the Paris fire brigade. He also served in the Diocese of the French Armed Forces and was based for a time in Afghanistan.

The French Bishops’ Conference says that the bells of all cathedrals across the country will ring on Wednesday at 6:50 p.m. local time (1850 GMT; 12:50 p.m. EST), the time when the fire started Monday at Notre Dame in Paris. The Bishops’ Conference said Tuesday in a statement that this will show the solidarity of all dioceses toward Paris and that the fire at Notre Dame “is a shock that affects far beyond just the Catholics of our country.”

France has 103 Catholic cathedrals.

Triumph of hope over despair

European Union chief Donald Tusk says the message of encouragement to France after the Notre Dame cathedral fire should be that “it’s not the end of the world” and that the damage will be repaired. Tusk told Polish reporters Tuesday in Strasbourg after a European Parliament debate on Brexit that it was the duty of all Europeans and all Poles to give France courage after this “dramatic” event.

The director of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay,  says expert work must be carried out immediately to protect Notre Dame Cathedral’s remaining structure after a devastating fire.

She told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it’s too early to say whether the treasured rose windows of Notre Dame are unscathed because art experts haven’t been able to study the site yet after Monday’s apparently accidental fire.

She said “the first 24, 48 hours” are crucial to protecting the stone and wood structure from water damage and assessing next steps. She warned that parts of the cathedral remain “extremely fragile,” notably hundreds of tons of scaffolding set up around the cathedral spire that collapsed.

She said Notre Dame has “a particular place in the world’s collective imagination.” Notre Dame is part of a UNESCO heritage site that includes the surrounding quais and islands, and UNESCO has offered its expertise to help rebuild.

Source: The Associated Press