The significance of Notre Dame burning aflame at the start of Holy Week has not been lost on Catholics and Christians, many of whom see it as an unshakable symbol about the state of the Church and the Western world as a whole.
Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke said that the destruction of Notre Dame is a "sobering reflection" on "attacks upon the infinite beauty of the faith by the grievous sins and crimes of our day." Burke says this at a time when children with Down Syndrome have been all but wiped out in Europe through the practice of abortion and as the Catholic Church faces harrowing trials resulting from the sex abuse scandals at the hands of vipers in clerical clothing.
"Before such a tragic event, I join in prayer with the devout Catholics of Paris, of France, and of the whole world, for whom the Cathedral of Notre Dame is a living expression of our deep faith in God and our ardent love of Him," Burke told the outlet, noting that Notre Dame was more than just a monument or an icon of France.
"For Catholics, churches are not monuments but are the House of God, in which we really and truly encounter Heaven," he said. "Because of God’s immeasurable and unceasing love of us in the Church, churches are also the House of the Church."
That relationship with God, Burke notes, is what spurred our Medieval ancestors into erecting such a glorious monument. "For that reason, the faithful in the 12th Century employed only the most beautiful and enduring materials in constructing the Cathedral which was intended to last throughout the ages until the Coming of Our Lord at the end of time," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI said as much during his apostolic visit to France in 2009 when he hailed Notre Dame as a "living hymn of stone and light in praise of that act, unique in the annals of human history: the eternal Word of God entering our history in the fullness of time to redeem us by His self-offering in the sacrifice of the Cross."
Not only did Notre Dame glorify God with its beauty, it also had the power to convert men's hearts, according to the cardinal, as in the case of poet Paul Claudel.
"It is fitting to recall that it was in the same cathedral that the poet Paul Claudel (1868-1955) had a singular experience of the beauty of God, during the chanting of the Magnificat while attending Vespers on Christmas of 1886," said Burke. "His singular experience on that Christmas night led to his conversion to the Catholic faith. It should not escape us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a most important and irreplaceable means of announcing God to a culture fraught with secularism and materialism."
Pope Francis similarly praised Notre Dame in the wake of the hellish fire on Monday, hailing it as an "architectural jewel of a collective memory."
"This disaster has seriously damaged a historic building," the Pope said in a letter. "But I am aware that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their beliefs. For Notre-Dame is the architectural jewel of a collective memory, the gathering place for many major events, the witness of the faith and prayer of Catholics in the city."