President Donald Trump said Wednesday he had spoken with Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron to offer the help of “great experts on renovation” to help rebuild Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.
The president said in tweets that he offered “condolences from the People of the United States for the horrible and destructive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral” to the Roman Catholic leader.
“I offered the help of our great experts on renovation and construction as I did in my conversation yesterday” with Macron, Trump wrote.
Notre Dame, an over-850-year-old cathedral in the French capital, sustained substantial damage in a massive fire on Monday believed to have been linked to renovation work at the site.
As the fire was raging on Monday, Trump suggested first responders use “flying water tankers” to extinguish it.
“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” the president tweeted shortly after news broke of the blaze. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
France’s civil security agency tweeted in apparent response Monday evening that dropping water from a helicopter or airplane could cause the entire cathedral to collapse and lead to collateral damage to surrounding buildings.
Firefighters managed to contain the blaze after roughly nine hours, saving many of the priceless artifacts and works of art contained inside. The cathedral’s iconic steeple, as well as large portions of its walls and roof, were destroyed.
Donors have pledged nearly $1 billion to aid with renovation efforts. Macron has said he wants reconstruction to be completed within five years ― a goal experts say is likely wildly ambitious.
Pope Francis offered prayers on Tuesday that sorrow over the damage would be “transformed into hope.”
“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.
Trump continued to address the fire after his “flying water tanker” suggestion fell flat on Monday. Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump also offered their condolences.
Some commentators pointed out that neither Trump nor Pence had spoken out after three predominantly African American churches in Louisiana were recently destroyed in arson attacks.
“The church fires have, of course, drawn wide coverage and attention. The Louisiana governor mentioned it in his recent state of the state,” wrote Washington Post reporter Eugene Scott. “But top Trump administration officials have not spoken out on or condemned the violence.”
The Notre Dame fire, however, prompted renewed attention to the Louisiana churches and sparked a fresh wave of donations to help those houses of worship rebuild.