Tuesday, April 16, 2019
I share the sadness of millions around the world at the loss to fire of much of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday.
In cultural and historical terms, it was a tragedy of the first magnitude. What's lost can be rebuilt, but the original can never be replaced. Of greater cultural import, at present it's believed that something like 70% of the religious relics housed in the sacristy at the cathedral have been destroyed, or are still not accounted for. Their loss (if confirmed) will be a grievous blow to the Catholic Church, where such items are regarded with far greater importance than other Christian churches.
I'm very thankful that only one serious injury has been reported (to a firefighter), and no fatalities. Given the hundreds of tons of lead sheathing in the Cathedral's roof, most of which melted in the flames and fell into the interior, it could have been much, much worse.
However, I'm also very angry at the rush to judgment by some extremists. Within an hour of the fire making the news, they were proclaiming that it was started by Islamic fundamentalist arsonists. They didn't speculate - they flat-out stated it as a fact, and began to foment yet more anti-Muslim hatred among their followers. In the absence of any supporting evidence whatsoever, and given the already inflamed relations between Muslims and ordinary citizens in France, that was extraordinarily irresponsible. I'm a firm believer in free speech, but I also believe that deliberately false speech should have consequences. I hope their lies bounce back on their heads in French courts, if that can be arranged.
In the end, I think the Notre Dame fire should not affect the faith of Christians. We may mourn the loss of a beautiful, historic building, and the loss of so many culturally important artifacts; but, in the end, our faith is not in buildings, nor in artwork, nor in anything tangible. This might be a good time to remind ourselves of that reality.