By Devin Watkins
“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 return 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.”