Paris is the most-visited country in the world today.
And its Notre Dame Cathedral, at the very center of the city, is its most visited monument.
Thus, when the cathedral was hit by fire last Monday, it was not just the people of Paris who watched the flames in tears.
The whole world watched and joined in prayer as the cathedral, completed in the 12th century after 200 years of work, was slowly surrounded by flames and then its spire toppled down to earth.
This is the cathedral students around the world read about in Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” first published in 1831.
It was where Napoleon had himself crowned emperor in 1804.
Notre Dame survived the devastation of two world wars in the 20th century and it rang its bells on the day Paris was liberated from German occupation on August 24, 1944.
It is home to several holy relics – a Crown of Thorns, a piece of the cross at Calvary and a nail, which are seen by the public every first Friday of the month.
The relics have been saved along with its 18th-century organ with its 8,000 pipes, its statues of the 12 apostles and four evangelists, and its Pieta at the altar.
Within hours after Monday’s fire, more than 300 million euros had been offered by donors in France and around the world – nearly 880 million euros a day later.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promised to help France restore the cathedral which it declared a World Heritage site in 1991.
Malacañang immediately expressed its solidarity with France over the fire which destroyed a large part of the cathedral.
Thousands of Filipinos are among the people of various nations who have beautiful memories of their visit to the cathedral, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
The Manila Cathedral, which also suffered destruction in past centuries, said it grieves with the Church in France.
“But amid this grief, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus signals the hope of rebirth and reconstruction,” the Manila Cathedral said.
The fire that destroyed a part of Notre Dame Cathedral brought tears and pain to much of the world as it began observing Holy Week.
But after the tragedy, the world has rallied to help rebuild and restore the cathedral. It has become a symbol of the resurrection of Easter Sunday which the Christian world celebrates today.