World leaders react to Notre Dame fire


By Matters India Reporter

Paris, April 17, 2019: Pope Francis and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among world leaders who shared their sorrow at the fire that devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

“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,” the Pope said in a message to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris on April 16, a day after a deadly blaze engulfed the historic cathedral.

The huge blaze that was extinguished around 15 hours after it first broke out, Paris’ fire service announced.

“The whole fire has been extinguished. Now we’re in the phase of investigating,” spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters, adding that the fire had spread “very quickly” through the wooden roof of the world-renowned monument.

Earlier, millions of people around the world watched with horror as the fire took down the structure’s famous spire and expressed solidarity with the French people at the devastation of a national symbol.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 16 conveyed his shock and sadness on the devastation caused by the fire, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar wrote on Twitter.

In a letter written to the French President Emmanuel Macron, Modi “expressed India’s solidarity with the President and people of France on this national loss.”

The Vatican has offered technical assistance for the historic sanctuary’s reconstruction.

The Pope assured all the people of France of his spiritual closeness and prayers during Holy Week, as the Church recalls Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.

“This disaster,” he wrote, “caused serious damage to a historic building.”

“But, 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,” the Pope’s letter said, the Vatican News reported.

The pontiff 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.”

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.”

Also on April 16, 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.”

Meanwhile French president Emmanuel Macron said he was “sad to see this part of us burn.” later tweeting that the cathedral would be rebuilt and announcing an international fundraising campaign to pay for reconstruction.

“It’s part of our French destiny,” he said. “Tomorrow a national fund will be launched, and well beyond our borders.”

His predecessor as president, François Hollande, declared: “Notre Dame is our common heritage, it’s a wound to see her ravaged by the flames. Respect to the firefighters who are working to extinguish the fire.”

American President Donald Trump tweeted: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” The US president later tweeted: “God bless the people of France!” after his firefighting suggestion appeared to be directly dismissed by French authorities.

Former US president Barack Obama tweeted a photo of himself, his wife and his daughters inside the gothic landmark during a visit to Paris, along with the message: “Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted that her thoughts were with the people of France and the emergency services “who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral”.

The archbishop of Canterbury said he was praying for “the firefighters tackling the tragic Notre Dame fire”. Archbishop Justin Welby tweeted that he was also praying “for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman wrote on Twitter: “Fluctuat nec mergitur”, a Latin phrase roughly meaning “she is tossed by the waves but does not sink” which has been used as the motto of Paris since the 14th century, when Notre Dame was completed.

Leaders from other countries including Australia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Poland, and Spain also expressed their sadness and said their thoughts were with the people and leadership of France.

UN Secretary General António Guterres, tweeted that he was “horrified” by the destruction of the cathedral, which he called “a unique example of world heritage that has stood tall since the 14th century.”

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