By Devin Watkins
Speaking to French pilgrims present at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis thanked the many people who risked their lives to salvage Notre Dame as fire tore through Paris’ Cathedral.
“The gratitude of the whole Church goes to those who did everything they could, even risking their lives, to save the Basilica,” he said.
The Holy Father said he felt a great sense of sorrow for the damage caused by the devastating blaze.
Fire broke out on Monday evening in Notre Dame’s rafters, where workmen had been carrying out renovations.
The spire of the 12th-century Cathedral collapsed, along with the entire roof.
Courageous firefighters saved the Blessed Sacrament and several relics, including the Crown of Thorns and the tunic of St. Louis. Much of the artwork was also rescued.
Authorities consider the fire an accident.
Phone call with Macron
Pope Francis spoke by phone with President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, personally expressing his solidarity with the people of France.
He repeated the feeling again on Wednesday, telling the nation: “I feel very close to all of you.”
“May the Virgin Mary bless you and support the work of reconstruction,” he prayed at the General Audience. “May it be a harmonious work of praise and glory to God.”
Support pours in
Donations are pouring in to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. Nearly $1 billion has already been raised.
The French government, which owns the Cathedral, is setting up an office to gather donations.
France’s cultural heritage envoy, Stephane Bern, said contributions came from both ordinary Catholic faithful and wealthy donors.
Barbara Jatta, the head of the Vatican Museums, told Reuters that her staff of art historians and restorers “are willing to do anything we can to help.”
Daring the odds, President Macron has pledged to restore Notre Dame Cathedral to her former glory in 5 years, just in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.