President Rivlin offers solidarity with France as Notre Dame burns

President Rivlin offers solidarity with France as Notre Dame burns

Government and church officials in Israel bemoan fire threatening to destroy landmark cathedral, which has stood in Paris for 850 years

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday night expressed solidarity with France as Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral was engulfed in flames, amid fears that the iconic nearly millennium-old building could burn to the ground.

“The Notre Dame [cathedral] is among the most beautiful of Paris’s symbols and of France’s in general, but also one of the most important to any cultured person,” Rivlin said in a tweet.

“Last January, I looked out over the Parisian skyline, all the more beautified by the cathedral’s spire,” he added. “Our hearts are with the citizens of France and the tales of Notre Dame, true and fictional, in prayer that they will endure forever.”

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz also tweeted his solidarity.

“On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express my deepest solidarity with France and the French nation over the terrible fire at Notre Dame, a world symbol of civilization,” he said.

Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral, as it burns in Paris, on April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Earlier, in a first official Israeli reaction, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted that it was “heartbreaking to see this icon of France and world civilization in flames.”

The Catholic Church in the Holy Land said it was praying that the fire ripping through the cathedral was “not intentional” while expressing solidarity with the church in France.

“We pray that there will be no injuries, for the fire not to be intentional and for least possible damage to the Church,” a statement released in Jerusalem said. “We express our solidarity with (the) Church in France.”

It came as France’s deputy interior minister said that the prospect of saving Notre Dame was “not certain” and as French fire services said they were “not sure” that the blaze could be stopped.

The Vatican, meanwhile, expressed its “incredulity” and “sadness” over the fire in the cathedral, which it called “a symbol of Christianity in France and across the world.”

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron on his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris on January 23, 2019. (ludovic Marin/AFP)

“We express our closeness with French Catholics and with the Parisian population. We pray for the firefighters and for all those who are trying their best to tackle this dramatic situation,” a spokesman said in a statement.

The fire, which began in the early evening, sent flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched in horror.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed, but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work to help the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece better deal with the tests of time.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

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