(CNSNews.com) – French President Emmanuel Macron vowed late Monday that Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral would be rebuilt, after a fire devastated part of the iconic building but failed, according to the city’s fire chief, to destroy it completely.
The landmark two towers appear to have been saved, and cathedral officials relayed in a tweet the news that the main structure had been “saved and preserved.”
Macron told reporters at the scene that the fire, which brought down the top portion of the 850-year-old cathedral’s spire, was a “terrible tragedy” and expressed his sympathy to Roman Catholics around the world.
“We will rebuild Notre Dame together,” he said, signaling a fundraising effort would be launched immediately in France and beyond its borders.
Macron described Notre Dame as “the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been.”
Based on early investigations, authorities believe the fire started accidentally. The gothic church, one of the most visited in the world, was undergoing a major restoration project.
“God bless the people of France!” tweeted President Trump.
Earlier the president had wondered whether flying water tankers could be used to douse the inferno at the church, which First Lady Melania Trump visited in July 2017 accompanied by Macron’s wife, Brigitte.
“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” Trump said in an earlier Twitter post. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
France’s civil protection agency subsequently explained that dumping water from aircraft could lead the collapse of the cathedral’s structure.
“Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible Notre Dame fire under control,” it tweeted. “All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.”
Parisians watched aghast as the fire raged in the church, located on a small island in the River Seine. The tragedy occurred shortly after the beginning of Holy Week, when Christians mark the entry into Jerusalem, trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Catholicism is the biggest religion in France, with some 45,000 Catholic parishes across the country, although Mass attendance numbers are low.
Notre Dame’s symbolic importance to the faith is significant, and in 2016 several Muslim women were arrested on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack near the cathedral early on a Sunday morning.
A car containing gas cylinders and bottles of diesel – and a burning cigarette – was discovered parked in an alley near the Notre Dame, and two women were seen fleeing the scene. The car did not explode as was evidently intended, and police used identifying information to track down the suspects, who had links to ISIS terrorists in Syria.
Attacks on Christians and Christian symbols featured frequently in ISIS propaganda publications, which called for “crusaders” and “cross-worshippers” to be targeted, and envisaged a day when ISIS’ black banner would flutter over the Vatican.
“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah,” the terrorist group’s Dabiq magazine quoted an ISIS spokesman as saying in 2014.