PARIS – On Monday, April 15, 2019, the roof and spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris were destroyed in ravaging fire. In the wake of this tragedy, the Holy Land Christian leaders joined their voices with the world to express their solidarity for the people and the Church of France.
Following the fire, and in a message published on the website of the Diocese of Paris, Archbishop Michel Aupetit sent an appeal to priests in Paris to “ring the bells of your churches to invite prayer.” In an interview with BFMTV, the Archbishop said that he received messages of solidarity from France and the whole world, with Haïm Korsia, the Grand Rabbi of France, being the first to express his unity with the Archbishop. He also pointed out that “Notre Dame is more than a symbol, it’s a sign and the soul of France.”
Once the news of the fire broke out, solidarity messages started pouring from all over the world to empathize with the people of France. The Holy See expressed “shock and sadness” over the devastation, conveyed its closeness to French Catholics and the people of Paris and raised prayers for the firefighters trying to contain the fire.
The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land also was quick to raise its prayers for the Cathedral, especially during this time of the Holy Week, which started last Sunday April 14. In a statement, the Catholic Ordinaries prayed for everyone’s safety and hoped that the fire was not arson.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa also sent a solidarity message on behalf of the Church of Jerusalem and the Latin Patriarchate to Archbishop Aupetit. In the message he said that “Notre-Dame is the symbol of the Church of Paris and France and a historical and cultural reference for all Europe.” He pointed out that the Church of France has “all the elements and the strength to rebuild and be reborn… the images of fire will become the symbol of new beginning. Nothing is lost.”
In a twitter post, Al-Azhar Grand Imam expressed his closeness as well as his full support to the people of France.
Notre-Dame is home to many artworks and holy objects, among which are the relics of the Passion; a piece of the cross, a nail and the Holy Crown of Thorns. The firefighters were able to recover these precious objects and many more from inside the Cathedral and stored them safely elsewhere.
The Order of the Holy Sepulchre in France, who guards the relics, expressed their gratitude to the firefighters who risked their lives to salvage the holy objects. “The Order of the Holy Sepulchre thanks the firefighters who risked their lives for this. The members pray for them, especially for those who have been seriously injured,” read the statement published on the Order’s website.
The cause of the fire is not yet identified but could be linked to renovation work needed to stabilize the structure that is being carried out at the Cathedral.