The vision of Notre-Dame de Paris on fire not only causes consternation at the loss of an invaluable historical heritage, but also intense bewilderment and shock at the fragility of the world around us, or even dizziness at the prospect of its possible demise.
It’s also difficult to not see these flames ravaging the heart of French Catholicism as a symbol of its collapse.
France in 2019 is a largely dechristianized country, in which the practice of Catholicism has become almost anecdotal and where its cultural, social and political influence is now only marginal.
A country where churches, except the few that are continuously assaulted by hordes of tourists, remain desperately empty and die in silence. A country, also, where Catholic buildings are now subject to more and more frequent and increasingly serious degradations and profanations, in the almost total indifference of the public and the media.
Of course, France now vows to “rebuild” the fire-ravaged majestic cathedral, but more as a cultural symbol and a tourist magnet than as a sacred place. The reconstruction may indeed take place, let’s hope so at least, but it will probably not be enough to restart a heart that has stopped beating.
The “eldest daughter of the Church” has for some time already lost faith, as one sometimes loses it in the twilight of one’s life. The sight of Notre-Dame devoured by the flames somehow symbolizes the disappearance of the last remnants of this thousand-year-old Christian faith, vanishing into the Parisian night. As if the Christian God had finally decided to leave, abandoning to its fate this country that turned away from him.