Message of Christian solidarity as Notre Dame blaze halted

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has sent a message of solidarity to France over the Notre Dame fire, saying he stands with everyone “who watches and weeps for this beautiful sacred place”.

Justin Welby, the leader of the world’s Anglican communion, was just one of many global figures who added their voice to the chorus of dismay over the huge blaze.

People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The Archbishop said the cathedral was a place where “millions have met with Jesus Christ”, and added this message in French: Nous sommes avec vous [meaning we are with you].

Shortly after 10pm GMT tonight it emerged firefighters had halted the spread of the blaze, which had begun some time before 5.50pm GMT (6.50pm Paris time).

It is believed this may save much of the building’s structure.

Speaking outside the cathedral, fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet had earlier told reporters he was “not sure we are capable of stopping the spreading” to Notre Dame’s second tower and belfry, but police later said they had been successful.

However, commander Gallet said two-thirds of Notre Dame’s roofing “has been ravaged” and one firefighter was hurt.

Fire crews would keep working overnight to cool down the structure, he said.

Speaking at the scene, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild Notre Dame, and said that he will seek international help to do so.

Prime Minister Theresa May described the events as “terrible” and said “my thoughts are with the people of France”.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper had watched the fire at the scene, and said she was “ aghast that centuries of history & beauty could disappear into smoke so fast”.

US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter as te blaze was ongoing: “So horrible...

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

The Church of England’s director of cathedrals and church buildings, Becky Clark, said: “We understand their sense of loss, and the uplifting connection people feel with cathedrals and churches the world over.

“But no matter the destruction, the spirit of what it means to be a cathedral can and does survive such catastrophes.

“In England, the spire at Lincoln collapsed in the 1500s, St Paul’s was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and Coventry was destroyed by bombs.

“All have been rebuilt, sometimes taking on new forms, to stand as reminders of eternity and resurrection which are the foundation of the Christian faith.”