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Antje Jackelén: Humanity's soul is stirred to tears as a cathedral burns

the Smoke would be darker if it was real, I thought. So wrong. The flames grew in front of our eyes. Huvudspiran fell. And the fire continued.

”A burning cathedral relating to the mankind's soul to tears”, I wrote on Twitter. And the reactions allow me to understand that it is just so. In the small light becomes Notre-Dame, perhaps more than ever all our Notre-Dame. It is Paris, it is France, it is Europe. It is history, it is civilization, it is spirituality. It is something of the divine presence in the world. This is precisely why it says something about the true human. Mankind's soul is stirred to tears when a cathedral fire.

is one of the masterpieces that humanity has created. But also because countless people have seen its silhouette, entered through the doors, walked under the arches, were captured by the rose window, the bent knee at an altar, taking group photos and selfies. It may be just a quick tourist visit. But the knowledge that here the destinies of the world since centuries, yet still provides a sense of humanity – all of fragmentation, in spite of the is a we.

Well of us that we can still be touched to tears over a burning cathedral. And with such a hardened politician like Carl Bildt writes, ”it feels as if It is the end of everything. Europe is crying”. However, I do not want to believe that this is the end of everything. Rather a beginning. What will be left of the Notre-Dame cathedral after the fire can still talk to us. Even among ruins, the fair is celebrated. It can give us a renewed understanding of how necessary the holy places is in our midst, that we shall be, and remain, human.

Smoke rises around the Notre-Dames altar in one of the first images from inside the cathedral after the fire has been extinguished. Photo: Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP

but its spiritual geography? Without church towers, chapels, cemeteries, and other places where holiness dwells in a special way? They remind us that when man is self-sufficient, then she is a miserable creature. Then escapes, she either arrogance, hubris, or ports in the undermod, an inability to meet its mission to be the very man.

While the cathedral still burns, people gather in its vicinity, and singing hymns. At the same time as many others the world over recall their own visit to Notre Dame.

Personally, I carry an indelible memory from 3 december 2015. It was during the ongoing climate summit, COP 21. France's christian council, the Conseil d’Èglises chrétiennes en France, had been invited to an ecumenical kvällsgudstjänst of Notre Dame. As the Swedish church archbishop I got to read, historically a procession, which in itself was a unique ecumenical event. The paris agreement was not yet in port. The cathedral was filled with people who prayed for the negotiations, for creation, for humanity and for climate justice.

The prayer can never be prey. I see it as an existential and ethical challenge that, together, we continue in the spirit.

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