U.S. Catholic leaders are mourning the partial loss of the gothic wonder that is the Cathedral of Notre Dame. But, with Easter quickly approaching, they’re also expressing hope for its “resurrection.”
On April 15, Catholics worldwide watched in shock and horror as flames shot up from Notre Dame in Paris, France. Constructed in 1163 and finished in 1345, the gothic beauty attracts an estimated 13 million visitors per year.
The masterpiece is not only a historical and cultural landmark but also, first and foremost, a house of God. That’s why Catholic leaders lamented its destruction, beginning with the pontiff himself.
Pope Francis tweeted out “#NotreDame” the day after the fire, on April 16.
“Today we unite in prayer with the people of France, as we wait for the sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope with reconstruction,” he stated. “Holy Mary, Our Lady, pray for us.”
He wasn’t alone. Catholic leaders around the world publicly mourned the tragedy on Twitter, including in the United States.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) tweeted out a statement from President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, on April 15:
The horrific fire that is engulfing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is shocking and saddens us all, for this particular cathedral is not only a majestic Church, it is also a world treasure.
Offering prayers for the people of France, he added, “We are a people of hope and of the resurrection, and as devastating as this fire is, I know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent Cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all Christians.”
As the news of the fire broke, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, grieved for the cathedral.
“I just went next door to our own beloved Cathedral, Saint Patrick’s, to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames!” he said. “God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”
The next day, he shared the news that St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan would ring its bells in solidarity with Notre Dame and France. “This Holy Week teaches us that, like Jesus, death brings life,” he said. “Yesterday’s dying, we trust, will bring rising.”
On April 15, Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles said “Friends, I am absolutely devastated to hear about the fire now engulfing the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.”
He had a special relationship with the church after living a fifteen-minute walk away while completing his doctoral studies in Paris. “Every Wednesday at noon, I would give a tour to English-speaking visitors to Notre Dame,” he said. “Notre Dame is simply one of the most spiritually charged places in the world.”
Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis, tweeted, “Please join me in prayer for those fighting the fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.” He called on Our Lady of Paris, Saint Florian and Saint Joan of Arc to “pray for us!”
Bishop Michael Olson of the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, added, “Lets pray for the Church in France hurt by the devastating fire at Notre Dame Basilica.”
While the “faithful have lost a magnificent church,” tweeted Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, “our Catholic community joins in prayer with our sisters and brothers in Paris, who remain sheltered by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston also offered his prayers, stating: “Like millions around the world we are watching closely the tragic fire engulfing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami tweeted about the “great loss of a world heritage site and symbol of the faith of France when France was considered the ‘eldest daughter of the Church.’” He added that the gothic giant had “survived two World Wars” and “was already ‘old’ when Columbus discovered America.”
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois sent a chain of tweets over the “heartbreaking” incident. “Notre Dame Cathedral is more than a church,” he tweeted, “it’s a world-wide iconic symbol of our Catholic faith.”
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago shared a statement about the “terrible tragedy,” and asked his followers to join him “in praying for the people of Paris, the parishioners of Notre-Dame, the Catholics of the city, their archbishop, and all French people.”
“In this moment of sorrow, we stand arm in arm with the French people … knowing that just as our city once rose from ashes, Paris’ great cathedral will again reach for the heavens,” he added.
From old ashes, new life comes. The Catholic Church can be rebuilt – whether that applies to a physical church building or, even, the internal Church that Jesus sacrificed Himself for on Good Friday.