South Florida parishioners mourn Notre Dame Cathedral

MIAMI (WSVN) - South Florida parishioners are in mourning after the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire.

People in South Florida and the world watched in disbelief as one of the world’s oldest cathedrals went up in flames, Monday.

“It’s a great loss for humanity and also for the church,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “Some people have said that Paris is not Paris anymore without Notre Dame.”

At the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami, the church held their daily Mass and prayed for those affected by the fire.

“It’s a hard time for Paris and a hard time for all Christians,” said Mahalia Mercelia. “We’re all Christian, and this is our church.”

Just before the Mass, Wenski told 7News seeing the historic church burn devastated him.

“[The church burning is] quite a shock because, think about it, in the last century, Paris survived two World Wars, and Notre Dame survived the bombings that devastated much of Europe in the last century,” said Wenski. “Now, it’s destroyed by what it seems to be an accidental fire.”

A special mass was held on Tuesday morning at St. Mary’s for all priests in the archdiocese to renew their vows. In the wake of the catastrophic fire overseas, the pews were fully packed.

“It’s really a sad, sad loss for all of us,” said parishioner Teresa Etcheverry. “It is personal. It belongs to all of us, all of the Catholics. Everyone that goes to Paris, what’s the first place you make a stop? The Notre Dame. ”

“I cannot believe it. Today I’m going to pray for this church to build back again. I hope to see that,” said parishioner Florence Elysee.

“It was very emotional. I sat on my sofa and cried,” said parishioner Irene Bergmann. “I’m happy no one was injured or loss of life and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to see it intact. I hope to see it again.”

Father Manny Alvarez said he had plans to visit the cathedral in the summer.

“To be able to see that going up in flames, obviously it was heartbreaking for me,” he said, “and I felt for everyone who I know who has been there, but also for the priests and the faithful in Paris who, during this Holy Week, are going to be experiencing Holy Week without the beautiful church in Notre Dame.”

Clement LeClerc, the Consul General of France, said he saw a part of France burn with the cathedral.

“It’s a lot of emotion in France, but also all over the world around this wonderful monument,” LeClerc said.

“It was painful and terrible for us because the Cathedral of the Notre Dame in Paris is like a symbol of Christianity for more years in the past, maybe 850 years,” said Youry Jules of the Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church. “I think God will provide people of good will and good heart to help to rebuild this cathedral.”

The pain from seeing the cathedral burn was also felt at the Sage French Cafe in Fort Lauderdale.

Jean Luc Thebaud, a worker at the restaurant who previously lived in Paris, said people could feel the church’s presence throughout the city.

“The history is so strong in Paris,” he said. “You can feel it in the stone, in those monuments. It’s the first monument, the most visited monument in France, you know? The first one.”

Jean Francois LeJeune, who teaches architecture at the University of Miami, said, “It is a major structure. It belongs to France, but it also belongs to all of us.”

At Miami International Airport, passengers heading home to France who have stood before the cathedral said the fire is a huge blow.

“France has lost something really, really great,” said a traveler.

“I showed the video to my parents, and my mother cried,” said another traveler.

As Paris and the world heals from the massive catastrophe, some in South Florida are hoping the heartbroken city can rise from the ashes.

“It’s going to be hard to not see the physical building, but the history and everything that happened, the masses,” Mercelia said. “Everything stays the same because God is eternal.”

“Hopefully, they will be spared, and they will be able to rebuild upon those foundations,” said Wenski.

The Cathedral of St. Mary rang its church bell for one minute at 6 p.m. in support of those in Paris.

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