Pope Francis has said he was “very saddened” by the destruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral, but was grateful the bravery of shown in extinguishing the flames.
While greeting a group of French pilgrims at the weekly general audience, the Pope expressed his “affection and closeness” to the people of France following the devastating April 15 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, which consumed two-thirds of its 13th-Century oak roof and brought down the cathedral’s 300-foot spire.
The Pontiff added that while he was “very saddened” by the destruction, he was also grateful to the many men and women who bravely worked to extinguished the fire.
“The gratitude of the whole Church goes to all those who worked hard, even risking their lives, to save the basilica,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary bless them and support the work of reconstruction. May it be a choral work for the praise and glory of God.”
Among those also present at the audience was 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who spoke briefly with Pope Francis at the end of the general audience. She started the “school strike for climate” initiative, which has expanded to include tens of thousands of students taking a day off school to demonstrate and demand their government’s act against climate change.
“Thank you for standing up for the climate and speaking the truth. It means a lot,” Thunberg told the Pope.
In reply, Pope Francis told the young woman, “God bless you; continue to work, continue. Go along, go ahead.”
In his main talk, Pope Francis postponed a continuation of his series on the Lord’s Prayer and instead reflected on the prayers of Jesus before and during his Passion.