Vatican feels pain of Notre Dame Cathedral fire

Catholics commemorating Holy Week watch Paris fire in pain

ROME – Vatican City and Rome residents felt powerless watching the flames engulf Notre Dame Cathedral's spire and spread to one of its rectangular towers Monday, the second day of Catholic's Holy Week commemorations.

The Vatican was in communication with the Paris diocese and Alessandro Gisotti, the Vatican spokesman, released a statement about the destruction at Notre Dame -- one of the world's most treasured Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. 

"The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world," Gisotti wrote. 

French President Emmanuel Macron is treating the fire at as a national emergency. Karine Dalle, a spokesperson for the Paris diocese, said the Archbishop of Paris was near Notre Dame with Macron. 

"Firefighters are still fighting to save the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The frame, the roof and the boom are consumed," Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit wrote in French in a message to priests. "Pray, and if you wish, you can ring the bells of your churches to invite people to prayer."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo set up a security perimeter around the cathedral's Ile de la Cite, the island in the Seine river. He told reporters about 500 firefighters were able salvage the main towers from the flames. 

"We express our closeness with the French Catholics and with the Parisian population," Gisotti wrote in French. "We pray for firefighters and for all those who do their best to cope with this dramatic situation."

Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told reporters in Paris that the 12th-century cathedral's wooden frame was destroyed. There is an ongoing $6.8 million renovation project on the church's spire that involves 250 tons of lead.

The rooster at the summit of the spire had three Catholic relics, a piece of the crown of thorns and relics from Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve, for protection. It's unclear if these were removed during the renovations. 

"The whole world, whether you have faith or no faith, feels greatly for the loss," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said, adding that he can "only hope that one day Notre Dame will rise from its ashes."

Here is a list of treasures at the UNESCO world heritage site:

Catholic relics -- Fragments of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails.

Rose windows-- The west, south and north medieval stained glass windows. 

The "Mays" --  Paintings commissioned by the Parisian Goldsmiths' Society were offered in honor of the Virgin Mary each May 1 from from 1630 to 1707.

Great organ -- The 13th century organ has 8,000 pipes. 

"The Visitation" -- A masterpiece of the 18th century by Jean Jouvenet.

"St. Thomas Aquinas, Fountain of Wisdom" -- A painting by Antoine Nicolas estimated to have been completed in 1648. 


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