Pope Francis Tuesday expressed his unity with the people of France following a major blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, encouraging the rebuilding of the “architectural jewel” and “witness of the faith.”
“Following the fire that devastated a large part of Notre-Dame Cathedral, I join you in your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the other French,” the pope said April 16.
In a message to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris, he wrote: “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 the Catholics in the city.”
“On these Holy Days when we remember the passion of Jesus, his death and his resurrection, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and my prayer,” he said, extending his apostolic blessing on the French bishops, Catholics, and all the inhabitants of Paris and France.
Pope Francis sent his condolences in the wake of a major fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral, which started shortly before 7pm local time April 15.
The fire was brought under control shortly after midnight April 16, and totally extinguished several hours later.
The roof of the French cathedral collapsed along with its spire, but the main bell towers and historic edifice of the building were saved.
Reports also indicate that the major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.
Paris’ prosecutor has said it is inquiring into “accidental destruction by fire.” A French official said April 16 the fire was not intentionally started.
Pope Francis wrote that he is aware that the fire has caused serious damage not only to what is a historic site, but “a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French people in the diversity of their convictions.”
He hopes the Paris cathedral will be reconstructed to become once again “this beautiful setting in the heart of the city, a sign of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France and humanity.”
Pope Francis also praised the firefighters for their work and their courage.
Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter early April 16 that the pope is praying for French Catholics and for the people of Paris and that “he assures his prayers for all those who strive to cope with this tragic situation.”