Pope Francis sent a letter of condolence and his apostolic blessing to the people of France Tuesday, following the blaze that devoured large sections of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“Following the fire that ravaged much of Notre-Dame Cathedral, I share in your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris, and all the French people,” the pope said in a letter addressed to Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit.
“I assure you of my spiritual closeness and prayer,” Francis said, “in these holy days when we remember the passion of Jesus, his death, and resurrection.” Last Sunday Christians celebrated Palm Sunday, which commemorates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem just days before his death.
“This catastrophe has severely damaged a historic building. But I am aware that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and all the French in the diversity of their convictions,” the pope stated.
Notre-Dame is “the architectural jewel of a collective memory,” Francis continued, “the gathering place for many historic events, and a witness to the faith and prayer of Catholics within the city.”
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. Holy Mary, Our Lady, pray for us. #NotreDame
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 16, 2019
“In saluting the courage and the work of the firefighters who intervened to contain the fire, I wish to express my hope that the Cathedral of Notre-Dame can become once again, thanks to the work of reconstruction and the mobilization of all, this beautiful jewel in the heart of the city, sign of the faith of those who built it, the mother church of your diocese, and architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France, and humanity,” Francis said.
It was a Catholic priest, in fact, the chaplain of the Paris firefighters, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, who rushed into the burning cathedral to save the church’s most precious artefact, believed to be the Crown of Thorns placed on Christ’s head during his passion.
“With this hope,” Pope Francis closes his letter, “with all my heart I grant my Apostolic Blessing to you, as well as to the Bishops of France, and the faithful of your diocese, and I invoke the blessing of God on the inhabitants of Paris and on all the French.”
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