Monsignor Dennis Noon of Guelph’s Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate has wonderful memories of walking through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“There is a real spirit of prayer and faith that you experience when you go through the cathedral,” he said.
Noon was discussing his visit from over 30 years ago in an interview on Wednesday, just two days after a massive fire tore through the historic structure.
“It’s one of those places where you’re awestruck by the beauty of it,” he said “The artwork in there, the paintings, the windows — they’re all very rich.”
Like many others around the world, Noon was shocked and saddened by the images of Notre Dame engulfed in flames.
“It’s just hard to fathom the extent of the damage,” he said. “My fears when I saw the spire fall and then the roof collapse, and I thought, ‘they’re going to lose this whole place.'”
“You can feel the emotion of what they must have been feeling [in Paris] and it is a tremendous loss.”
Luckily, the damage is not as bad as anticipated, thanks to the rapid response of fire crews who saved the building from complete destruction.
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While the blaze is still under investigation, fire officials will be looking at any ongoing restoration work and whether it may have played a factor.
Noon admits a fire was one fear he had when his basilica was undergoing renovations a few years ago.
“We were very careful of all the work that was being done and it was always in the back of our minds, too,” he said while noting vandalism and break-ins were other concerns.
The church successfully completed the renovation in 2014.
While looking at images of the fire, Noon said he couldn’t help but think of Guelph’s church on the hill and the significance the building has in the Royal City.
Given that it is Easter, Noon said the fire will be addressed during mass this weekend and offered a sample of the message he hopes to share.
“It’s a tremendous loss, but the church is more than the building,” he explained. “The church is the people and the faith of the people is what will help restore that church.”