Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | ePaper
World leaders stunned by Notre-Dame fire, urge rebuilding
AFP, Paris :
Fire struck Notre-Dame on Monday afternoon and destroyed the steeple within hours.
Global leaders and institutions shared the international shock at seeing Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral consumed by flames.
They stressed the unique and iconic place the monument has in human history and expressed solidarity with France. Pope Francis "is praying for French Catholics and for the people of Paris in face of the terrible fire," his spokesman wrote on Twitter.
Notre-Dame "belongs to the whole of humanity. It has inspired writers, painters, philosophers and visitors who have come from all round the world," said EU Commission head Jean Claude Juncker.
"You are going to rebuild your cathedral," vowed EU President Donald Tusk, calling on all 28 European Union member states to help.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the fire "a blow to the heart for the French and for us all Europeans" while Spanish Prime Minister lamented the "sad news for our history and our universal cultural heritage".
The Venice Opera House noted it was hit by fire in 1836 and 1996 "but twice we rose stronger from the ashes," adding: "We are with you, friends; do not be afraid."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman invoked the Latin motto of Paris - Fluctat nec mergitur, meaning "it may be tossed around but never sink" - in the wake on the disaster. "Notre-Dame is a symbol of France and of our European culture," he tweeted.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with the people of Paris after the "terrible blaze".
Russia President Vladimir Putin emphasised that Notre-Dame was "a historic symbol of France, a priceless treasure of European and world culture, one of the most important Christian sites" and said the disaster "leaves sadness in Russians' hearts". UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "horrified" by the fire and called Notre-Dame "a unique example of world heritage that has stood tall since the 14th century".
"Our hearts are broken," said the head of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, adding that the historic cathedral "represents an architectural, cultural and religious heritage, a unique literary heritage that speaks to the whole world."
US President Donald Trump was quick to tweet as the disaster was
unfolding: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"
His predecessor, Barack Obama, also weighed in, saying: "We're thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It's in our nature to mourn when we see history lost - but it's also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can."
Iraq's president, Barham Saleh, linked his country's recent devastation from war to the Notre-Dame fire, tweeting: "Iraqis uniquely appreciate the pain, sense of loss afflicting the people of France as we have recently experienced destruction of much of our national cultural heritage."
Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said his thoughts were with "the French and all Catholics," calling the cathedral "that iconic monument dedicated to the worship of our one God & that brought all of us closer through (Victor) Hugo's literary masterpiece."
Moroccan King Mohammed VI said "this catastrophe hits not only one of the most historic and emblematic monuments of Paris but also a place of prayer and worship for millions of faithful in the entire world."
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, writing in French, said on Twitter that "our hearts are with the people of France and the real and fictional legends of Notre-Dame, and we pray that it lasts for eternity."
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" at the fire and expressed its "sadness" and "solidarity with friendly France".