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A sign of solidarity: Bells toll for France following Notre Dame fire

Posted at 5:28 PM, Apr 17, 2019

BALTIMORE — The bells chimed for 10 minutes straight at the Basilica of the Assumption, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and all across Baltimore in solidarity with the people of France following the massive fire that damaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

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"It's important to show solidarity,” said Bo Smolka of Towson, “I think anyone, Catholic or not, I think people are affected by these images of this church on fire."

It is a sentiment echoed by people visiting America's first cathedral here in Baltimore after Archbishop William E. Lori asked parishes and schools to ring their bells in unison at 12:50pm.

"I had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame probably about 20 years ago,” said Michelle Morris of Germantown, “and you just see all of the things that you read about in books and everything like that, and then when you're there, it just has an ominous presence and then to see it all go up in flames and then the one image of one of the steeples falling over was pretty hard to see."

A prior seminarian in Paris, Notre Dame holds special memories for Reverend John Conley, a professor of philosophy and theology at Loyola University Maryland, including a service he attended, which included some of the faith's most sacred relics, which survived the fire.

"I was very struck how many people wept as they simply genuflected or kissed the Crown of Thorns, again, not out of any superstition or idolatry---on the contrary. This was a way of showing their faith in Christ as Redeemer and honoring his passion," said Conley.

And while many will never forget the sight of flames consuming part of the 850-year-old Gothic structure, hope remains.

"It's probably like what we're all looking forward to---the Resurrection, when all of us will rise again," said Petra Irlandez, who travelled from California to visit her daughter here.

A moment in time when a loss shared by the world serves as a stark reminder to people of faith.

"When you look at the pictures and footage we have of the ruins of Notre Dame, everything is dark, desolate, black, gray, except for one thing---a simple, unadorned golden cross on top of the main alter, which I think is a reminder to us,” said Conley, “Notre Dame may be one of the greatest historic and artistic and political treasures in the world, but it's first a church and its purpose is to proclaim the Cross."