Notre-Dame fire: British politicians and religious leaders express sadness at Paris cathedral blaze

Jamie Johnson
Flames rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris - AP

British politicians and religious leaders expressed their sadness at the devastating fire engulfing Notre Dame cathedral on Monday night.

On the ground in Paris, some 400 firefighters have been mobilised to tackle the flames which have spread across the Cathedral's roof, bringing down its spire. 

Prime Minister Theresa May, currently in Wales, said: "My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in Japan, said he was thinking of his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian  "and all our friends in France tonight following the devastating fire at Notre Dame.

"Heartbreaking for the millions who love this great cathedral and great city across the world. Wishing you all the best in tackling the blaze and its consequences," he added.

Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and chair of the Home Affairs select committee is in Paris, and tweeted a picture close to the devastating scene.

"Have just come away from the bank of the Seine after the spire fell as I can’t bear to watch any more," she said. 

"Fearful for anyone close to the flames, and aghast that centuries of history & beauty could disappear into smoke so fast."

The MP was sitting on the banks of the Seine during an Easter break with her daughter when the fire broke out and told The Telegraph: “We were sitting on the bank of the Seine 6.30 early evening sunshine. Then we saw smoke starting to rise above houses, which we realised was from Notre Dame. 

“As we walked to bridge you could see thick clouds of smoke and flames running up the spire. It blocked out the Sun.

“The roof took really fast, the flames whipped along the roof. We saw the rose window blow. 

“We saw the spire fall, it was heartbreaking. The spire was eaten away by the flames of orange. Centuries of history and beauty have been lost.

“It’s awful to see such damage to such an incredible building but your first thought was for the people. We just hope everyone’s ok.”

Ed Llewellyn, Britain's ambassador to France described the images of the burning Cathedral as "heartbreaking" adding,  "All our thoughts with the heroic firefighters as they battle this terrible blaze."

A spokeswoman for the Association of English Cathedrals said: "Our hearts go out to the people of Notre Dame and Paris as we watch this tragedy unfolding; made more poignant at this time of Holy Week  - one of the most important dates in the  Christian calendar.

"We pray for them and all who are working to bring this fire under control and we will continue to offer our prayers up to them all this week. "

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "Heartbreaking scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in flames. London stands in sorrow with Paris today, and in friendship always."

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic Notre Dame fire - and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ. Nous sommes avec vous."

Anne Hathaway, who was awarded an Oscar for best supporting actress for her critically acclaimed role in Les Miserables has posted on Instagram expressing her deep sadness.

"I know this is an inspired representation of an even greater divinity. I know this blessed place is a human-made interpretation of what is mysterious, unknowable, and undefinable and while seeing her burn brings tears to my eyes, I know even flames cannot diminish her sacredness. Still, not her.  Please. Not her," she said.

Dominic Grieve, a Tory MP and chairman of the Franco-British Society, said: “I’m devastated to see and hear of this fire. It is an iconic building of great importance to France. I only hope the fire can be brought under control.”

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the fire was "heartbreaking". She said: "Heartbreaking to see Notre Dame ablaze. Praying no one hurt. 

Historian Tom Holland said: "History is indeed being made in the most terrible, heart-rending way.

He later added: "An irony: Christians can watch the destruction of Notre Dame, and be confident, amidst all their sorrow, that only the City of God is truly eternal - that every work of humans will ultimately turn to dust. Those without religious faith lack that consolation."

A spokesperson from Westminster Abbey said they were "devastated" for their friends at Notre Dame and for the people of France.

"You are in our thoughts and prayers tonight," they added.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic in England and Wales said: “The shock at the outbreak of this fire is spreading round the world. 

"It is an iconic building visited by millions but more importantly is a symbol of faith which is at the heart of Europe. 

"We therefore all pray that the fire is extinguished quickly and with a shared effort the building made good.” 

Art dealer Philip Mould picked out one gothic statue he hopes is spared from the flames.

"Tragic to see Notre Dame, an iconic, global landmark, visited by so many of us when first introduced to Paris, now engulfed in flames," said conservative MP Tobias Ellwood.

"Just like our own Westminster Hall, for centuries it stood as an window in to our history. A visible connection to our past. Heartbreaking."