Monday 20 May 2019

Editorial: 'Notre-Dame reminds us hope can rise from ashes'

A view of the damaged roof and debris inside Notre-Dame de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS
A view of the damaged roof and debris inside Notre-Dame de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral. Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS
Editorial

Editorial

Hearts sank a little as the first images of orange flames licking over the roof of Notre-Dame emerged.

One does not expect to grieve for a building, but Notre-Dame has its place in the soul of Europe.

For a while, it seemed like the fragility of civilisation seemed to be carried in the plumes of smoke billowing from the ancient cathedral.

As its spire crashed into the inferno, it looked as if the Gothic masterpiece of resilience would be lost to us for ever. And what a loss that would have been.

In the wake of the French Revolution, the cathedral was declared a "Temple of Reason" as part of an anticlerical movement.

In fact, all of its original bells were destroyed, except for one - strangely enough called Emmanuel. It rang out calling on Parisians to celebrate the end of World War II.

Thanks to heroic efforts, the cathedral will be returned to us, though it may take decades.

At a time when Europe is more fractured than united, it was reassuring to see so many rally to save the Grande Dame.

Within hours of the blaze starting, hundreds of millions were pledged towards its restoration.

It also seemed fitting when the totem of faith in the City of Light was in peril, that the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, should issue an appeal not to "give in to fatalism".

Commenting on division in Europe, he said the UK's departure from the EU should not be seen as inevitable.

"I didn't respond at the time. But today in front of you I would like to say at this rather difficult moment in our history, that we need the dreamers and dreams.

"We cannot give in to fatalism. At least, I will not stop dreaming about a better and united Europe," said Mr Tusk.

And visiting Dublin yesterday, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, also reminded us not to be careless in opening divisions, and to cherish legacies from our past.

She also warned a trade deal between the US and the UK could be imperilled if there was any undermining of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Good Friday accords ended 700 years of conflict. This is not a treaty only, it's an ideal, it's a value, it's something that's a model to the world, something that we all take pride in," she said.

"Values", relationships, and ties with previous generations are often only appreciated when they have been taken away through carelessness or failure to appreciate them.

These old links to previous troubled times still can be stepping stones to the future.

So the world will breathe a sigh of relief that Paris has not lost its symbol of hope and an icon of faith.

As Victor Hugo put it: "If you ask the great city, 'Who is this person?,' she will answer, 'He is my child'." The great city can cherish its Grande Dame for future generations and the rest of the world will be richer for it.

Not for the first time, hope will rise from ashes in Europe and something precious will be rebuilt.

Irish Independent

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