UK churches to ring their bells for Notre-Dame

A view of debris inside Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Paris, France after it was ravaged by fire(Photo: Reuters)

The bells will toll at churches across the UK on Thursday in a mark of solidarity with the people of Paris after Notre-Dame Cathedral was ravaged by fire.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised that the landmark will be rebuilt within five years after Monday's devastating fire evoked a groundswell of sympathy across the world.

The fire caused extensive damage, especially to the roof and spire which collapsed in the blaze.  Millions of euros have already been pledged in an international fundraising effort to restore the 850-year-old cathedral to its former glory. 

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are asking cathedrals and churches across England to toll their bells for seven minutes at 7pm on Thursday as a mark of solidarity.

The bell-ringing was suggested by the British Ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn.  

St Paul's Cathedral in London will be among the churches taking part. 

The Rt Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, has also asked churches to in Scotland to take part as an expression of "sympathy and solidarity" with the people of Paris. 

Mrs Brown said: "The world has been shocked and saddened by the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. The reaction is so great because the church is more than 'just' a building.

"Many buildings, as well as being worship spaces, are a celebration of the gifts of stone masons, carpenters, glass makers, artists and musicians. They also house history and Notre Dame is one such church."

Rev Jan Steyn, minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris, said the disaster has had a profound impact on people.

"It is not only a presence for the Parisians, it belongs to the world," he said.

"On the night of the fire, we all went to bed with a sense of loss.

"Something we have taken for granted for centuries, or at least for as long as we remember, seemed to be disappearing right in front of us.

"Notre Dame is a tourist attraction, a place of worship, a refuge, a character in movies and novels.  But for millions of people it is an icon, a home, a place with personality.

"For Parisians, Notre Dame is a calming presence and a reminder of the bigger presence.  It is a place revered by a nation even though France is a secular state."

Around 500 firefighters fought through Monday night to save the building from total destruction, including many of its treasures.  

Mr Steyn said it was "better news than expected" that firefighters had managed to save the stone structure and some of its treasures from inside, like its centuries-old organ. 

He added that it was moving to see young French people gathering to sing psalms as firefighters fought to bring the flames under control. 

"The fire in the Notre Dame made us aware of how vulnerable we are, how vulnerable our treasures, monuments and our world are," he said. 

A prayer has been issued on behalf of the Association of English Cathedrals to be used in connection with Notre-Dame.

Lord Jesus,
your broken body, laid aside,
rose in glory.
Give resurrection hope to the people of Paris
and all who grieve the destructive fire
at Notre Dame.
From the ashes may beauty once more arise,
as from the grave our new life comes.