The massive fire spread rapidly through much of the 850-year-old medieval cathedral in the centre of Paris tonight (April 15) and its spire and roof has collapsed.
Bishop Alan Hopes said: “The prayers and thoughts of Catholics in East Anglia are with the people of France and those French citizens who live and worship in our diocese, as they have witnessed the devastating fire rage through their ancient and beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady, in Paris. This building has been a powerful symbol of the Christian Faith not just in France but around the world and we all share in their sadness.
“It is particularly poignant that it should happen at this moment when Catholics in Paris are preparing for the most solemn celebration of the year, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, made all the more poignant by the Cross which remains standing amidst all the ashes and ruins of the Cathedral.”
Matthew Fernandez-Graham, Director of Finance and Resources for the Diocese, studied in Paris for several weeks while completing a degree in French at Cambridge University.
He described the cathedral as “the soul of France” and said: “I am just heart-broken and feel so much for the people of Paris and France. I would urge people to pray for the people involved, and those fighting the fire and that as much of the building and its content as possible can be saved.”
Sister Gemma Simmonds CJ, Director of the Religious Life Institute at the Margaret Beaufort Institute in Cambridge, sang in the choir at Notre Dame in the 1970s.
She wrote on Facebook: “I’ve just been sitting watching Notre Dame go up in flames. It hardly seems possible. I sang in the choir there when I was a student at the Sorbonne in the 70s and it felt like being immersed in the middle ages. It’s the glass I feel so sorry about – everything else can be replaced, as so much of it was the restoration work of Viollet le Duc anyway, but that is a treasure gone forever… It feels like an old friend dying…”
The Diocese has many links with Notre Dame with the High School in Norwich, the independent Prep School in Norwich and several parish churches named after Our Lady (Notre Dame). The Diocese contains the Roman Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.