People gathered for a midday mass at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on Tuesday in a show of support for Notre Dame Cathedral after the Paris landmark was heavily damaged in a massive fire.
It took hundreds of firefighters more than 12 hours to contain the fire that toppled the steeple and destroyed the roof of the famed church during this Holy Week leading up to Easter. The cathedral had been undergoing renovations.
After the mass in Minneapolis, some of those gathered prayed the rosary, honoring “Our Lady of Paris” — Notre Dame. People at the basilica also wrote messages and prayers in a book that will be sent to the archbishop of Paris next week.
“Many people have been touched by the tragedy at the cathedral, which is miles away from here,” said Johan van Parys, director of liturgy at the Basilica of St. Mary. “I have received e-mails and messages from my friends here in Minnesota and Europe.”
Mary Syfax Noble, a member of the basilica who attended the mass, recalled her 2010 visit to Notre Dame as part of a vacation cruise.
“It was huge,” Noble said. “The high ceiling, the artifacts, the grandeur of the structure. What fascinated me was that there were hundreds of people inside the church but there was hardly any noise.”
She said she prayed as she watched images of the cathedral burning on television.
“I hope that they save some parts of it,” she said.
Some people were in tears during the mass as they said prayers for Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame has survived the French Revolution and two world wars. This time, there has been some damage,” said the Rev. Harry Tasto, who celebrated the mass. “We hope that it will be repaired soon.”
Notre Dame, which draws millions of tourists and worshippers each year, is one of the most visited places in Paris and was the setting of significant historical events, including the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor and the beatification of Joan of Arc. French officials said Tuesday that they had saved many of the religious treasures and artworks inside.
Norma Garcia, a Rawlins, Wyo., resident, who was at the basilica on Tuesday, remembered her visit to Notre Dame in 1996.
“The sheer beauty of it is mesmerizing. I believe I am truly blessed to have been there,” she said, adding that she cried when she heard of the fire. “I grew anxious. I started tracking all the news breaks related to it on the internet.”
Tianyu Lei, a college student, attended the solidarity mass because to him, it was a tragedy that extended beyond the borders of Paris.
“The church is not only for Catholic Christians but for all humanity,” he said. “This is why I had to be here.”