The Vatican has united with the French in prayer.
Pope Francis offered heartfelt prayers as the flames partially destroyed the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France. In his social media post, the pontiff wrote that the Vatican has united in prayer with French citizens and hopes that the sorrow caused by the serious damage will be transformed into one of hope with the reconstruction. According to Alessandro Gisotti, the interim press director of Holy See, the pope considers himself “close to France” and has offered prayers to all people who are doing their best to cope with such a tragic situation. The press director himself expressed sadness and shock concerning the fire and issued a statement pointing out that the Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the few structures symbolizing Christianity in France.
Michel Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, asked via Twitter to all priests presently in Paris to ring their church bells so that the devout be asked to pray. The blaze at Notre Dame started on April 14, and firefighters opine that the cause of the fire was faulty renovation work currently being done in the 850-year-old structure. Andre Finot, the Notre Dame spokesperson, told the media he is afraid of the devastation being outside the possibility of repair. Firefighters have saved the important works of art and the structure's core stone construction.
Pope Francis however, is not likely to visit Notre Dame cathedral at present or during the Holy Week. According to John Allen Jr., an editor at Crux media, a news service specially targeted towards Catholics, the pope has his schedule already mapped out. The pontiff will do the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, which is the foot washing ceremony, and on Good Friday the Via Crucis procession at the Colosseum in Rome and the obligatory Sunday Mass during high Easter. Allen, however, did not discount the possibility of a visitation by the pope. Francis is known for making last-minute changes during the last six years of his papacy, and there is a slim chance he may make a visit to the French capital city.
The subsequent renovation work will not be the first for the Notre Dame cathedral. The medieval structure has gone through multiple reconstructions over centuries. The 1790s French Revolution led to the plunder of the cathedral, and substantial damage was inflicted on the structure. Notre Dame was converted back to its old glory after a 25-year long restoration was done during the 1800s.