LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — People around the world are reeling from news of the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, including members of Arkansas’s art and Catholic communities.
Father Tony Robbins pastor of St. Joseph Church in Conway, led 22 Arkansans on a pilgrimage through France last week. The trip included a stop at Notre Dame Cathedral.
“It was a beautiful experience standing in front of the facade of the Cathedral Church,” Robbins said. “It was overwhelmingly joyful.”
Robbins described Monday’s devastating fire that engulfed the 800-year-old building’s roof as a “sad event.”
“We were some of the last people to look at the Cathedral Church before the fire,” Robbins said. “So it’s kind of surreal to see it on the news that it's burning down.”
Though crews continue working to determine the extent of damage, Patrick Ralston, director of the Arkansas Arts Council, said the fire will likely have a lasting impact on the art community.
“There's no numerical value you could put on this,” he said. “This is part of our history; this is part of who we are, and it’s part of our civilization,” he said.
CBS News reports that flames gutted the cathedral's roof, but firefighters saved most of the structure – including its iconic rectangular towers. The fire comes as Christians begin Holy Week celebrations.
“Celebrating Easter, we remember the saddest event, the crucifixion of our Lord, and how God has turned that into our salvation,” Father Robbins said. “So we know that God can do great things even in sad circumstances.”
French President Emmanuel Macron says he will launch an international fundraising campaign to rebuild Notre Dame.