SALT LAKE CITY — Catholics in Utah are continuing Holy Week celebrations while the tragic fire that tore through the faith's iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris remains a fresh wound.
"We're all kind of pretty devastated and overwhelmed by such a tragedy. The idea of such a historic building being devastated by fire, I think, is almost incomprehensible and certainly overwhelming," said the Very Reverend Martin Diaz, pastor at Salt Lake City's Cathedral of the Madeleine.
First alarms triggered by the blaze rang out about 6:20 p.m. Monday. Within hours, the building's famed spire was destroyed, along with the roof's wooden beams. By 11:23 p.m., the Paris fire chief said firefighters had saved the rest of the structure.
The impact reached worldwide and into Salt Lake City.
"Our office here has been inundated with calls for people who want to make a donation, to help the reconstruction. So we've started a fund to … give people the opportunity to make a donation, and then we'll send that to the Arch Diocese of Paris for the reconstruction," the Rev. Diaz told the Deseret News on Tuesday.
He recalled times when he and the Choir of the Cathedral of the Madeleine visited Notre Dame to perform and he helped lead services with the rector.
"And I can only imagine how devastated he is," the Rev. Diaz said.
He said he believes some worshippers are now questioning "the safety of our own cathedral. … People (are) asking the question, 'What do you have in place?' The fire sprinkler system, the fire extinguishers, and that.
"I think people want to make sure that our own Cathedral of the Madeleine, an icon that it is, just a beautiful building that we have, so blessed to have here in Salt Lake City, is protected. Which it is," according to the Rev. Diaz.
Meanwhile, eighth graders at St. John the Baptist Middle School in Draper on Tuesday performed the Stations of the Cross, a Christian devotion that focuses on events of Jesus Christ's day of crucifixion.
"This is one of our most holy weeks for Catholics as we're leading up to the crucifixion of Christ and his ultimate resurrection," said school principal Patrick Reeder.
The devotion benefited the students who performed it as well as those who were able to see it, Reeder said. "They're very moving, not only for the people that are watching it but also for the students."
Holy Week represents the most important event on the liturgical calendar and is even bigger than Christmas, according to Reeder. In deference to that observance, he declined to discuss the fire at Notre Dame.
"It's meant as a time of rest and reflection for all Catholics. And celebration. That's probably the more important part, the celebration."3 comments on this story
Diaz said he doesn't know if more people might come to church this week, but "I think people are sad and just recognizing the beauty that God gives us, and I think this is not just a building but it's like an icon that reminds us of our connection to God."
Like Holy Week itself, the cathedral "reminds us of our connection with Jesus," he said.
Donations for the reconstruction of Notre Dame can be made at the Cathedral of the Madeleine's mass or by calling the cathedral's office at 801-328-8941 and using a credit card. Donations can also be made directly on the Notre Dame de Paris website.
Contributing: Paul Nelson