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Notre Dame Fire Is 'Horrible Loss For Our Faith' Says Rector Of St. Peter In Chains

notre dame
Thibault Camus
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019.

The Rev. Jan Schmidt of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral describes feeling sick to his stomach when he heard the news of the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. "It's that kind of feeling because of the history and spirit of what's being destroyed there."

The iconic church in Paris caught fire Monday, the start of Holy Week which culminates with Christians worldwide remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Social media was filled with reaction from sadness to astonishment at the loss of one of France's most recognizable and historic structures.

"It's a horrible loss for the people of France, but also for the world that we live in, for our faith," Father Schmidt says. "Notre Dame has great symbolism; if anyone speaks of any church very readily in the world, it's either St. Peter's [Basilica in Rome] or Notre Dame."

For the faithful, Father Schmidt suggests taking heart in the same message Christians are preparing to commemorate.

"Out of the ashes, so to speak, there's always new life that arises and that's something that people have to hang onto, whether it's a personal difficulty or a death in the family ... there's always a hope that there's a great good that will come out of this."

He concedes that's hard to think in the midst of a tragic situation, but "that's what our faith is about, the resurrection."

A Personal Connection

Father Schmidt has visited Notre Dame several times during trips to Europe. Several years ago he was among a local group of religious leaders invited to concelebrate the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass at Notre Dame.

"It was a phenomenal experience for all of us, being able to pray in such a way in that church ... and then to hear what is happening there right now is just a very horrible situation."