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Notre Dame goes up in flames. The  French bishops: “A disfiguration of our own flesh”

Endless hours of flames and smoke devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a symbol of Christianity. Archbishop Aupetit was on site with President Macron, Mayor Hidalgo. Drones relayed images of devastation. The spire, “the finger stretched to Heaven”, the roof and the frame, have collapsed. But the two towers have been saved by firefighters.

The world, not only Paris, stood still at the sight of a devastating blaze that for several hours destroyed one of the most important symbols of European Christianity. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A place of prayer, a point of reference for the whole city, the protagonist of masterpieces of French literature, a global tourist destination.

According to a preliminary assessment, the fire broke out from an area of the cathedral covered by scaffolding for conservation works, causing the eruption of a huge column of smoke. The flames burst through the roof and the spire, until they collapsed, at approximately 8 pm. For many hours local inhabitants and thousands of tourists watched the flames blaze through the Cathedral. Many people broke out in tears. Some gathered in prayers and chants. The news rapidly travelled across the globe, obviously reaching the Holy See that promptly conveyed feelings of “closeness with the French Catholics and with the Parisian population” and assured prayers “for firefighters and for all those who are trying their best to tackle this dramatic situation.”

The archbishop of Paris Msgr. Michel Aupetit immediately went to the site of the fire. “It’s a tragedy”, he said, calling upon all the priests of the city to ring the bells of their churches as an invitation to prayer. It’s a dramatic situation.

A tous les prêtres de Paris :
Les pompiers se battent encore pour sauver les tours de Notre-Dame de Paris. La charpente, la toiture et la flèche sont consumés. Prions. Si vous le souhaitez, vous pouvez faire sonner les cloches de vos églises pour inviter à la prière.

“The firefighters are still fighting to save the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The frame, the roof and the spire are consumed. Let us pray.” Also French President  Emmanuel Macron was present and postponed a televised speech to the nation.

Notre-Dame is aflame. Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight.

Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes. Émotion de toute une nation. Pensée pour tous les catholiques et pour tous les Français. Comme tous nos compatriotes, je suis triste ce soir de voir brûler cette part de nous.

Msgr. Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, newly elected President of the French Bishops, gave voice to the dismay of French Catholics. “I cried out in horror”, he wrote. “I was ordained in this cathedral. This place represents many landmark events.” The archbishop mentioned in particular the demonstration in front of the Cathedral after the terror attacks at the Bataclan theatre in November 2015. “For a Parisian Notre Dame is a form of testimony.” “It’s a symbol of the efforts of peace, beauty, hope, faith, even beyond the Christian faith. It’ a great loss, a great wound.” “The collapse of the spire” was a deep blow to the heart of the city of Paris. “It represented a finger extended towards God”, remarked Mons. de Moulins-Beaufort. “This tragedy is a reminder that nothing in this world is made to last forever…”

“A part of our flesh has been disfigured. But I hope that this will prompt a new thrust, a universal movement.”
A “terrible ordeal”, said the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, who described Notre Dame Cathedral as a “historical heritage”, “a religious site” and a symbol of Paris, “one of the most visited sites in the world.” The city today helplessly observed the fury of the flames. But it also witnessed “a tremendous human chain to save the works of Notre Dame”, the mayor wrote. Images captured by drones showed the extent of the damage inside the Church. The firefighters “were among the first to arrive”, the mayor pointed out. “They did an incredible job to extinguish the fire,” engaging in concerted strategy with the ministry of culture, law enforcement agents and the municipality “to preserve the two towers of the cathedral.”

“I could have never imagined our city without our two towers”, the mayor said.

 

“We are well aware that the splendour of Notre-Dame extends beyond the capital city and that it will remain an important symbol of the Catholic faith and a place where everyone, believers and non-believers, will be able to meet at important moments in the history of our country “, the French bishops wrote in a statement. “At the beginning of this Holy Week”, the Bishops’ Conference invites  “Catholics to be the living stones of the Church ever more by living out the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, the fountainhead of our hope.”

 

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