VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Tuesday that he shared the sadness of the French people mourning the devastation of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and hoped it would be restored to remain a symbol of the faith of their forefathers.
“I associate myself with your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the French,” Francis said in a message to the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit.
“This disaster seriously damaged a historic building. But I realise that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their convictions,” he said.
Calling the cathedral the “architectural jewel of a collective memory,” the pope hoped that after it is restored it could once again be a “sign of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France and humanity.”
Earlier, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said the pope was praying for everyone, particularly the firefighters who risked their lives to bring the blaze under control.
“Notre Dame will always remain - and we have seen this in these hours - a place where believers and non-believers can come together in the most dramatic moments of French history,” Gisotti said.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Larry King