ALL NEWS

Why Notre Dame Cathedral is so important to Catholics worldwide

Apr 15, 2019, 2:25 PM
Witness image shows the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, via NBC News.

(CNN) — This week is Holy Week, when millions of Western Christians mark the death and resurrection of Jesus. Under normal circumstances, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris would have been preparing to display its holy relics to the faithful on Good Friday.

But as fire engulfed the sacred site on Monday, Catholics across the world reacted in horror and disbelief, particularly when the cathedral’s iconic spire toppled amid the flames.

For generations, Notre Dame has been a place of pilgrimage and prayer, and, even as religion in France has declined for decades, it remained the beating heart of French Catholicism, open every day for Mass.

“I can’t even look at it,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit writer based in New York, said of the televised images of flames devouring the cathedral’s iconic Gothic architecture.

“Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica (in Vatican City) I don’t think there’s a more iconic church for Catholics. I don’t think there are any Catholics who visit Paris and don’t pray or go to Mass at Notre Dame.”

For Martin, as for other Catholics, it was difficult not to see several layers of symbolism in the flames: The fire broke out during Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar, at a time when the Catholic Church worldwide is engulfed in controversy over the abuse of children, and when France has seen months of public anger over rising fuel prices.

Martin wasn’t alone in his grief. As news of the fire spread Monday, many prominent Catholics expressed deep sadness.

“I just went next door to our own beloved Cathedral, Saint Patrick’s, to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames!” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York tweeted. “God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the fire “shocking” and saddening. But, like many Catholics, DiNardo connected the heartbreaking news to the coming Easter holy day.

“We are a people of hope and of the resurrection, and as devastating as this fire is, I know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent Cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all Christians.”

DiNardo said Notre Dame is more than the sum of its tumultuous history. The cathedral, he said, “has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God.”

Good Friday

Notre Dame is not a parish church, meaning that it does not have a regular body of worshippers who “belong” to the church. But it is still the home church of Paris’ Archbishop Michel Aupetite and draws Catholics for vespers (evening prayers) Masses and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Penance.

And every year during Holy Week, Notre Dame unveils some of the most coveted relics in Christendom. Among them is the Holy Crown, believed by many to be from the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus, and which the cathedral calls its “the most precious and most venerated relic.” Catholics have prayed with the Holy Crown for more than 16 centuries, according to the cathedral.

Notre Dame also counts among its treasures two other relics connected to Holy Week: a fragment of the Wood of the Cross, believed by many to be a part of the “true cross” on which Jesus was crucified; and one of the nails that the Romans used to crucify Jesus.

That nail comes from the Holy Sepulcher, the place where Jesus was buried in Jerusalem, according to Notre Dame. Christians in Jerusalem gave the relic to the Emperor Charlemagne in 799, and it subsequently became a powerful object of veneration for generations of French Catholics.

During the French Revolution, when French secularists destroyed many iconic Catholic pieces of history and art, it was saved and given to the archbishop of Paris, according to the cathedral.

On Monday, as firefighters battled flames at Notre Dame, the safety of the relics was unknown.

As the flames rage Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris, whose home church is the cathedral, issued a plea for his priests to pray.

“The firefighters of Paris are still fighting to save the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The frame, the roof, and the spire are consumed. Let us pray. If you wish, you can ring the bells of your churches to invite prayer.”

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

This photos shows the gate to the Duke Energy West End substation in Moore County, N.C. on Sunday, ...
Nouran Salahieh and Hannah Sarisohn, CNN

Tens of thousands still in the dark after ‘targeted’ attacks on North Carolina power substations

With no suspects or motive announced, the FBI joins the investigation into power outages in a North Carolina county.
7 hours ago
Man who shot Lady Gaga's dog walker...
Taylor Romine and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Man involved in shooting of Lady Gaga’s dog walker sentenced to 21 years in prison

Originally Published: 05 DEC 22 21:53 ET     (CNN) — One of the people charged in the shooting and robbery of Lady Gaga’s dog walker last year has been sentenced to 21 years in state prison, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said Monday. James Howard Jackson, 20, pleaded no contest to one count of […]
7 hours ago
Great Salt Lake State Park and Marina...
Mark Jones

How much will it take to save the Great Salt Lake?

A bipartisan bill was passed in the U.S. Senate aimed at giving funding toward the study of The Great Salt Lake and other saline lakes in the west.
1 day ago
goblin mode...
Christian Edwards, CNN

‘Goblin mode’ chosen as Oxford word of the year for 2022

According to OUP, the term refers to a behavior which is "self-indulgent, lazy, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations."
1 day ago
free national park...
Aimee Cobabe

Lawsuit against Arches National Park after incident resulting in the death of a woman

A trial is underway after a woman was decapitated at Arches National Park. Her family alleges the park was negligent in not securing a gate that killed her.
1 day ago
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19:  The U.S. Capitol is shown as a looming government shutdown threatens ...
Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly, CNN

Defense bill likely to include end to military Covid vaccine mandate, source says

A massive bill setting defense policy is likely to end the military Covid vaccine mandate, a source familiar with the negotiations tells CNN.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Why Notre Dame Cathedral is so important to Catholics worldwide