Sadness & cinders

Whether or not you spare any thought or put any belief in omens or foreboding signs from the heavens, this seems unexpected, bizarre, and inconceivable: The Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral is burning.

'Paris is disfigured': Tears and shock as Notre-Dame burns

According to Reuters, sometime today on April 15 around 18:50 local time the fire began, and it quickly burned across the wooden roof and roof support of the 850 year-old cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine River, and about an hour later the spire collapsed. At about 20:07, the entire roof collapsed, and about 20 minutes after that the police evacuated the entire Île de la Cité. Apparently a French Interior Ministry official had earlier doubted that the entire cathedral could be saved, but a fire official commented that firemen had saved the Notre-Dame 'from total destruction'.

At 19:30 local time, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo warned crowds to stay back behind the operating perimeter, and the mood was somber among onlookers as the 'City of Lights' plunged into dark sorrow. Some sang a spontaneous 'Ave Maria' while the roof burned:

Crowd singing near the blaze

What Comes Next

While the authorities say for now that they are treating this fire as an unexplained accident that is perhaps 'potentially linked' to repairs that workmen were doing on the Notre-Dame, when it is placed in the context of the broader national social unrest in both France generally and Paris specifically, the size of the damage to this holy and historic church (a world-famous, enormously-visited tourist site in Paris) becomes very sinister. According to The Sun in the UK, 875 churches were vandalized across France last year, with arson of churches and feces-smearing, and in February of 2019 alone there were 10 different attacks on churches across the country:

At least 10 incidents of vandalism and desecration of Catholic churches have been reported across the Channel since the beginning of February. French Roman-Catholic newspaper La Croix International reported how the attacks on churches took place across France. Senseless acts included the desecration of altars, the defacing of Christ on the cross and in an extreme case, human excrement being spread across the walls of a holy place of worship.

According to the outlet, one of the first attacks was on February 4 at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Houilles, Yvelines, where a statue of the Virgin Mary was found smashed on the ground.

The same church also had the altar cross thrown to the ground and the celebrant’s chair was damaged.

On February 5, an altar cloth was found burnt and crosses and statues torn down or disfigured at the recently refurbished Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur, in south-central France.

The fire was found early by a parish secretary and did not spread - but the altar and adjacent walls were badly damaged by smoke.

Furthermore, in March of 2019 during the space of one week 12 more churches were vandalized:

A dozen Catholic churches have been desecrated across France over the period of one week in an egregious case of anti-Christian vandalism.

The recent spate of church profanations has puzzled both police and ecclesiastical leaders, who have mostly remained silent as the violations have spread up and down France.

Last Sunday, marauders set fire to the church of Saint-Sulpice — one of Paris’ largest and most important churches — shortly after the twelve-o’clock Mass.

Police have concluded that the fire was the result of arson and are now looking for possible suspects. The restoration of the church from the damage caused by the fire will reportedly cost several hundred million euros…

…In 2018, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 541 anti-Semitic acts, 100 anti-Muslim acts, and 1063 anti-Christian acts.

According to The Sun, some French politicians blame these barbaric acts as petty criminal encouraged by 'militant secularism'. I cannot comment on the factual basis for secularism, but it seems strange to me to ignore the very real, very obvious elephant in the room: the presence of millions of non-Frenchmen from alien countries who may have difficulty in assimilating into the French culture and national expression, and who may or may not have any personal qualms about defacing places of worship dedicated to a religion that they do not serve. Already in 2010, France had the second-largest number of foreign-born residents – both as a sum and a percentage of the total population – and in the years since then the number of foreigners has only grown:

(Forbes – Jan 2018) France Struggles with its Immigrants in the Midst of National Security Concerns

(The Telegraph – July 2018) Illegal migrants in Paris suburb soar to 400,00 as hundreds of migrant children sleep on the streets

(The Local – Nov 2018) France sees 20 percent rise in expulsions of undocumented migrants

(NPR – Jan 2019) Rejected by Italy, thousands of migrants from Africa risk the Alps to reach France

Do I know for a fact that people from outside of France are entering that country and running amok over the last two years by starting street riots and desecrating churches? No, I do not – my point is that after the non-stop inflow of foreigners into the heart of France for years, the incredibly deadly mass-shooting Islamist terrorism attacks in 2015, the self-inflicted ghettoization in French cities by migrants who do not or cannot assimilate into the broader society, and the rising trend in anti-Jewish assaults on synagogues and community centers, it would not surprise me in the slightest if some of this vandalism was done by rootless migrants who neither knew nor cared about nor respected the grand, historic, and Christian antecedents of the French nation. This sort of barbaric dishonorable action against historic churches and Catholic worship is disheartening and wicked, which is the likely reason that nameless thugs commit these crimes that attack identity, holiness, communal gathering, and physical examples of spiritual reality. These attacks are an aggresive and hateful assault upon the historic foundation and religion which ennobled and directed the people of France for centuries. When will it end?

But for today, I simply hope that some type of calm will take place for the next week so that the French people may celebrate the end of the mourning of Lent and the eucatastrophe of Easter as the beginning of new life.

(Header image AFP/Geoffrey VAN DER HASSELT)