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Notre Dame burns on April 15, 2019.

Five years after Notre Dame fire, Europe’s cathedrals still burn

Today marks the anniversary of the fire that nearly destroyed Notre Dame – the iconic 850-year-old cathedral that has become the symbol of Christianity in France.

The fire was ruled an accident but came amid a series of incidents that, by 2021, saw one historic French cathedral going up in flames every two weeks.

And it wasn’t just France. Across Europe, historic, “postcard-worthy” cathedrals began lighting up the night sky in the largest loss of churches since World War II.

And it continues. Last year, the 1,000-year-old Church of the Elevation of the Cross in Wissen, Germany was torched. It was deemed arson as were others. But many remain “undetermined.”

Cathedrals, with their soaring spires, can be a symbol of faith. You don’t have to be Catholic, Lutheran or Anglican to appreciate them.

For a thousand years those spires, visible for 20 miles, pointed the way to heaven for a mainly illiterate population. Today, many evangelicals typically don’t “get it” and that’s their loss as we build cookie-cutter buildings that are easily mistaken for the local strip mall. Perhaps that’s apropos.

I’ve been to, and been inspired by, some of the great cathedrals of America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe – including Notre Dame. I’m pleased it has been rebuilt and will reopen again in December.

In a changing culture, cathedrals continue to stand out on the secular landscape. That’s a good thing but it also makes them a target.

–Dwight Widaman is editor of Metrovoicenews.com

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