VOA’s Lisa Bryant in Paris contributed to this report.
The world reacted with shock, tears and prayers as it watched images of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral burning in Paris on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation just before midnight. “I tell you solemnly tonight: We will rebuild this cathedral,” he vowed.
He said he would seek international help, including from the “greatest talents” in the world for the task.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain was ready to help. He called the fire a “catastrophe for France, for Spain and for Europe.”
On the streets of Paris, hundreds gathered, some wept, as they watched the flames engulf the cathedral’s spire.
Paris resident Lisa Sussman, originally from Atlanta, in the U.S. state of Georgia, said, “It’s horrible. It really is the center of Paris. I was at the apartment with my friends. It really hurts everyone’s heart — they really feel that connected to it. I feel it, too. It was really tragic to watch the spire fall.”
Nearby, another Parisian resident, George Castro, said he was in shock.
“I’m a Christian, a Catholic. I think it’s really, really sad to see this happening right now. Right now, we don’t have many symbols, and this is a huge symbol for the West. It’s very, very sad,” he said.
Pope Francis issued a statement late Monday expressing the Vatican’s “shock and sadness” at “the news of the terrible fire that devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan prayed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan for intercession. “God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze,” Dolan said in a statement.
The Russian Orthodox Church’s secretary for inter-Christian relations Hieromonk Stefan called the fire “a tragedy for the entire Christian world and for all who appreciate the cultural significance of this temple,” the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported:
U.S. President Donald Trump called it a “terrible, terrible fire” that devastated “one of the great treasures of the world.” He also had advice for the French on how to fight the fire. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!,” Trump said on Twitter.
France’s Civil Security agency said that wasn’t possible. “Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible #NotreDame fire under control. 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,” the agency tweeted in English.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, in a tweet, called Notre Dame “one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.” He also posted an old photo of himself, his wife Michelle and their two daughters lighting candles in the cathedral.
Celebrities also poured their grief and dismay in tweets. American actress Laura Dern said she was moved to tears. “I’m weeping. Our gift of light,” she wrote. “Notre Dame on fire. My heart is breaking. My grandmother’s and mother’s heart home.”
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, “Standing here next to you, heartsick for Notre Dame. …”