By Devin Watkins
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Alessandro Gisotti, the interim Director of the Vatican Press Office, expressed Pope Francis’ closeness to the people of France.
The Pope, he said, is praying for “all those who are striving to cope with this tragic situation.”
Soon after the blaze started on Monday evening, Gisotti tweeted the Holy See’s “shock and sadness”, calling the Cathedral of Notre Dame “a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world”.
Fire broke out in Paris’ 860-year-old Cathedral on Monday evening, tearing through its timbered roofing and causing its storied spire to collapse.
The inferno raged for more than 12 hours before hundreds of firefighters were able to bring it under control. One firefighter was injured as he battled the flames.
The blaze started in the area around the spire, where workmen had been carrying out extensive renovations to the roof and the spire’s wooden frame.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the cause of the fire. Police sources told Reuters that they were working under the assumption that the fire was accidental.
What was saved?
Only the Gothic masterpiece’s outer walls, façade, and twin bell towers remain standing. Its famous pipe organ, dating back to the 1730s, also survived intact.
Firefighters reportedly saved many of the treasures housed inside.
Notre Dame’s Rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, said the Crown of Thorns – which tradition holds was worn by Jesus during his Passion – and the tunic believed to have been worn by St. Louis, the 13th century king of France, were rescued from the flames.
‘United in sorrow’
Messages of solidarity and sorrow are pouring in from around the world.
The Bishops of France said Notre Dame’s influence “extends beyond the capital” and that it would remain “a major symbol of the Catholic faith”. They also invited Catholics around the world to “be living stones of the Church,” especially as the faithful journey through Holy Week and look to the hope of Christ’s Resurrection.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said New Yorkers are united in sorrow with Parisians. “This Holy Week teaches us that, like Jesus, death brings life. Today’s dying, we trust, will bring rising,” he said on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
The spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, said the fire was “a huge loss for all humanity,” calling the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris “one of the most important monuments in the world.”