Pope Francis offered prayers as Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral was engulfed in flames on Monday.
“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,” stated a tweet from the pontiff’s account on Tuesday.
The pope “is close to France” and he is offering prayers “for all those who are trying to cope with this tragic situation,” Alessandro Gisotti, interim press director for the Holy See press office, said in a tweet Tuesday morning.
Gisotti on Monday expressed “shock and sadness” over the “terrible fire” at Notre Dame, saying in a statement that the cathedral is “a symbol of Christianity” in France, according to Vatican correspondent Elise Harris.
The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, posted a message on Twitter calling on priests in the city to ring their bells to beckon worshippers to pray.
The massive fire at Notre Dame began Monday in the roughly 856-year-old cathedral in the French capital. Firefighters said the blaze was “potentially linked” to renovation work in the building, Agence France-Presse reported.
André Finot, a spokesperson for the cathedral, said he feared the fire’s destruction would be beyond repair.
“Everything is burning. The framework, which dates from the 19th century on one side and the 13th century on the other, there will be nothing left,” he told Le Monde. “We have to see if the vault, which protects the cathedral, will be affected or not.”
Paris firefighters said Tuesday that the blaze had been extinguished after over nine hours. They said the stone construction of the cathedral and the “main works of art” have been saved.
Notre Dame has been through several rounds of restoration over the centuries. It underwent a 25-year restoration in the 1800s after substantial damage and plunder during the French Revolution in the 1790s. The original glass and sculptures were re-created, and its original spire was reconstructed.
The cathedral went through additional rounds of restoration in the 1900s, including after World War II, to replace medieval glass damaged by bullets.
On Monday, Notre Dame’s spire collapsed in the roaring flames.
Dramatic photos of the blaze showed flames leaping from the historic cathedral, which is home to countless celebrated works of art, while emergency personnel poured water onto the fire to try to bring it under control.
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a major speech Monday evening to visit the site of the fire. In a Twitter message, Macron said the emotion felt amid the flames is shared by all of France.
“Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burning,” he stated.