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World 'watches and weeps' as Notre-Dame burns

AFP | An aerial view shows Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris as flames tear through the building on Monday, APril 15, 2019.

Religious leaders and heads of state and government from around the world voiced their shock and sorrow as flames ravaged the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris Monday night.

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As a fire swept across the top of the 12th-century cathedral in the heart of the French capital, statement and tweets came pouring in from across the globe while the international community united to express their sympathies over the loss of one of the world’s most historic monuments.

The Vatican said the fire as the "symbol of Christianity in France and in the world" had caused shock and sadness and that it was praying for the firefighters.

"We express our closeness with French Catholics and with the Parisian population. We pray for the firefighters and for all those who are trying their best to tackle this dramatic situation," said a Vatican spokesman.

Notre Dame 'belongs to the whole of humanity'

Notre-Dame "belongs to the whole of humanity. It has inspired writers, painters, philosophers and visitors who have come from all round the world", said EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker

"Horrified by the pictures coming from Paris with the fire engulfing Notre-Dame Cathedral -- a unique example of world heritage that has stood tall since the 14th century. My thoughts are with the people and government of France," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts "are with the people of France tonight" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the images of the cathedral on fire were "painful".

"Notre-Dame is a symbol of France and of our European culture. Our thoughts are with our French friends," added Seibert.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, described the fire as "horrible" and suggested the emergency services used flying water tankers to put out the flames, an idea that was quickly dismissed by the authorities.

Former US president Barack Obama also expressed his sorrow to the people of France. In a Twitter post featuring a photograph of his family during a 2009 visit to the cathedral, Obama noted, "Notre Dame is one of the world's great treasures, and we're thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It's in our nature to mourn when we see history lost -- but it's also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can."

Former first lady Michelle Obama said: "The majesty of Notre Dame -- the history, artistry, and spirituality -- took our breath away, lifting us to a higher understanding of who we are and who we can be. Being here in Paris tonight, my heart aches with the people of France. Yet I know that Notre Dame will soon awe us again."

‘Pain and sorrow’

In a message posted on Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was, "Saddened that Notre Dame -- that iconic monument dedicated to the worship of our one God & that brought all of us closer through Hugo's literary masterpiece -- is partially destroyed after standing through wars & revolution for 800 yrs. Our thoughts are w/ the French & all Catholics."

 

"The Arab Republic of Egypt affirms that it is following, with pain and sorrow, the Notre-Dame Cathedral catching fire, especially that this monument is of important cultural and historic significance for France and as part of the world's heritage," said an Egyptian foreign ministry statement.

‘Sacred place’

Many non-Catholic religious institutions and leaders also offered their prayers to the people of France and the firefighters battling the blaze.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Church, said that "tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic Notre-Dame fire -- and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ".

The World Jewish Congress also paid tribute to what its president Ronald S. Lauder said was "an inimitable icon, a symbol of the country's great culture and history".

"We pray that there are no injuries or loss of life in this tragedy, and that the destruction can be restored to allow this unparalleled structure to return to its position of symbolic majesty on the Parisian skyline," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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