Debris surrounds a depiction of the Pieta by Nicolas Coustou in Notre Dame Cathedral April 16, 2019, a day after a fire destroyed much of the church's wooden structure. Officials were investigating the cause of the blaze, but suspected it was linked to renovation work that started in January. CNS photo/Christophe Petit Tesson pool via Reuters

Canadians share in the tragedy … and the hope

By 
  • April 16, 2019

In one of the darkest hours for the “City of Light,” the Catholic Church in Canada has united in prayer and solidarity with Paris as it watched one of its grandest treasures engulfed in a raging inferno.

Canadian Catholics were quick to express their condolences as the world watched Notre-Dame Cathedral go up in flames early in the evening of April 15, Paris time, and rage for hours as firefighters fought to save what they could from the cathedral that dates back to 1163.

As the fire raged, the Catholic bishops of Quebec expressed their “deep sympathy” and emphasized the “historic and deep ties (that) unite France and Quebec.”

“Among these, the bond of faith is particularly significant, since our foundation is directly linked to the missionary efforts of French Catholics, clergy and laity,” said Bishop Noël Simard, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec. 

Like many, Simard said “the whole world is a witness” of the fire that consumed the famous Gothic cathedral with more than eight centuries of history.

“All my brother bishops from Quebec join me in expressing to the diocese of Paris, to the Church of France and to all the French people their consternation and their immense sadness,” said Simard.

“May Our Lady be our comfort during this time of hardship.” 

Quebec Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix said in a statement on the Archdiocese of Quebec website that “we share a deep sorrow” as he watched “helplessly the fire (attack) today at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.” 

“The almost nine centuries of history of this place of Christian worship and the splendour of this world heritage that invites me to prayer still live in me,” said Lacroix.

As the sun set in Montreal, the city dimmed the lights at city hall to pay homage to the cathedral, and church bells rang out around the city. 

Montreal, with its French roots, shares a deep connection with Paris and its own Notre-Dame Basilica takes its inspiration from the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins said the tragedy has had an effect on people around the globe.

“All around the world, all of us feel a certain sadness in our hearts at the thought of the people of Paris losing not only such an astonishing, most beautiful cathedral in the world, but their cathedral,” Collins told media. “It is their church.”

The London, Ont., diocese also expressed its sorrow as people in the diocese watched “with horror” from afar as the fire consumed the cathedral.

“During this dark hour, only days away from Good Friday and Easter, we are reminded that pain and destruction, in time, will be replaced by love and hope,” said a statement from the diocese.

Canadian Catholic artist Timothy Schmalz of St. Jacob’s, Ont., said he was devastated as he watched the tragedy unfold and he wants to do his part to help restore the iconic church. 

“It’s hard to imagine it’s now in ruins,” said Schmalz, who has visited and taken inspiration from Notre-Dame and the other great cathedrals of Europe.

It was moving to see the amount of support being pledged by people to get started on the rebuild of the magnificent landmark, Schmalz said, and it led him to contact the Paris archdiocese to offer his artisan’s skills.

“Being an eternal optimist, I hope that when this cathedral is rebuilt it will have another message and that is that the Catholic Church today is indeed strong,” said Schmalz, perhaps known best for his Homeless Jesus sculpture that is on display in locales around the world, including Toronto’s Regis College, in Rome, various American cities and soon to be unveiled in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Schmalz hopes other artists will do likewise “to bring back beauty and to bring back that spirit that is sometimes lost in our secular culture today.”


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Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.