Prayers for Paris as city grieves devastating fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral

A fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral has caused massive damage(ITV)

Christians have been offering prayers and condolences for the people of Paris and the whole of France as the scale of the damage caused by a major fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral became increasingly apparent on Monday night. 

The fire broke out late afternoon and quickly spread, engulfing parts of the building in flames and plumes of smoke. 

The roof and tower of the 12th century gothic building have collapsed and the surrounding area has been evacuated as firefighters tackle the blaze. 

A Paris fire official told AFP news agency that the main structure of the cathedral had been "saved and preserved", including the two main towers. 

French President Emmanuel Macron was at the scene of the fire on Monday evening where he was meeting with senior police officers.

He tweeted: "Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation... I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn."

Church leaders have also expressed their grief at the devastation.  

The Catholic Bishops' Conference spoke of their "immense sadness" over the destruction caused to the cathedral but encouraged people to look to Christ for their hope, especially in Holy Week. 

"While the dramatic fire still devastates Notre-Dame cathedral, the bishops of France express their immense sadness and assure Archbishop Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, of their closeness and their prayers for his diocese," reads a statement issued on behalf of the conference.

"They are well aware that the influence of Notre-Dame de Paris goes beyond the capital and that it will remain a major symbol of the Catholic faith and a place where all, believers and unbelievers, can meet at important moments of the history of our country."

Malcolm McLoughlin, Associate Pastor of Trinity International Church in Paris, told Christian Today he was praying for comfort for the grieving.

"We are heartsick at this terrible loss and are grieving with the people from Paris and around the world," he said.

"Notre Dame Cathedral is iconic and deeply loved by the millions who visit it each year.

"We as followers of Jesus are praying for comfort for the grieving, strength for the firefighters, and wisdom for our leaders. May this catastrophe draw us closer to our Lord Jesus." 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, tweeted: "Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic #NotreDame 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." 

The Dean of Coventry Cathedral, the Very Rev John Witcombe said his heart and prayers were with the people of Paris.

"Our hearts go out to our sisters and brothers in the cathedral and civic community in Paris. To see the roof of your beloved Cathedral brings to mind our own destruction in 1940, in the terrible years of war.  And more recently in 2001 we were again threatened with fire, though not with destruction," he said.

"You will feel that your heart has been taken from you, but God still holds your life in his hands, and will give you grace to rebuild, as he did for us.

"For now, though, your grief will be inconsolable and our hearts and our prayers are with you from this city and this community'. We continue to pray for all of those involved."

Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church 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."