ROME – In a telegram to the Archbishop of Paris on Tuesday, Pope Francis expressed “sorrow” for the fire that damaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame Monday night and assured the people of France of his “spiritual closeness and prayers.”
“Following the fire that ravaged a great part of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I join in your sorrow and that of the faithful of your diocese, of the citizens of Paris and all the French people,” Francis wrote in a message to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris dated April 16.
“In these Holy days, where we remember the Passion of Jesus, of his death and resurrection, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and prayers,” he added.
Monday evening Paris time, a massive fire engulfed the famed cathedral of Notre Dame and its main spire collapsed from the blaze, with firefighters struggling to control the flames. The fire was eventually extinguished. but the damage and cause of the fire are still to be determined.
French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral with a national and international fundraising campaign.
“This catastrophe gravely damaged a historical building,” Francis wrote. “But I’m aware that it also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and of the French regardless of the differences in their beliefs.”
The pope recognized that Notre Dame is not only “the architectural jewel of a collective memory,” but also the scene of numerous important events in the life of France and Europe as well as a witness to the “faith and prayer” of French Catholics. Francis also acknowledged “the courage and the work of the firefighters who intervened to limit the fire” all night.
“I hope that Notre-Dame cathedral will be able to recover, thanks to the work of reconstruction and the mobilization of all, this beautiful treasure chest in the heart of the city, symbol of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, of France and humanity,” he added.
During a press conference at the Vatican on Tuesday, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, suggested that the Vatican might help in the reconstruction efforts of the cathedral by lending its knowledge in restoration and art, but added that France has the funds to pay for the damage taking into account that entrance into Notre Dame had to be paid.
The pope concluded his letter by sending his apostolic blessing to the French archdiocese and bishops as well as all the French people and the citizens of Paris.