Notre Dame’s community will endure, say parishioners and pastor of NYC cathedral that’s outlasted two fires

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan -- Notre Dame Cathedral is among the most iconic and recognizable Christian houses of worship in the world. The edifice, and the congregation that fills it, are mourning its damage, due to Monday's massive fire.

Mourning with Notre Dame are worship houses worldwide, including the world's fifth largest place of worship, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, here in uptown Manhattan.

St. John the Divine is no stranger to being damaged by fire during the holiest times of the year. Its experience provides empathy and example for a devastated Notre Dame community, and St. John the Divine's parishioners and pastors shared both with Notre Dame on Tuesday.

Specifically, the St. John the Divine congregation prayed for Notre Dame during their Holy Tuesday mass on Tuesday morning. The bishop's sermon focused on the parallels between Notre Dame and St. John the Divine, and the Morningside Heights cathedral's dean elaborated on those themes in an interview afterward, with PIX11 News.

"Dying and rising again" is the message of this religious season between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, said Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III. "And in a small way, that's exactly what's happened here."

He was referring to past events at his cathedral in which fire damaged the building, but did not defeat its community.

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, the Episcopal cathedral had a fire in its basement, under the main altar. It forced hundreds of worshipers and people at the church's basement food pantry to evacuate. They all went outside, into perfect spring weather, where they worshiped al fresco.

On Tuesday, cleanup crews were spread throughout the cathedral's choir and ambulatory areas, removing grime and odors left behind from Sunday's smoke and fire.

Far worse than that incident, however, was the scene in the north portal of St. John the Divine on December 18, 2001. That's where and when fire broke out in the gift shop that was located there at the time. It spread quickly, and ultimately destroyed the wooden roof of that entire section of the cathedral. The blaze also destroyed or damaged some priceless artworks, and left major portions of the building unusable.

Worshipers recalled their hardship on Tuesday, acknowledging that the fallout from the major fire they'd endured was not as grave as that which Notre Dame's parishioners are enduring now. Still, St. John the Divine's parishioners said, they understand the difficulties the Parisian congregation is undergoing.

"I can see them being really sad," said Marilyn Edghill, after St. John the Divine's Holy Tuesday service ended. "All we can do is pray for them and support them the best way we can."

Rt. Rev. Daniel, the cathedral's dean, said that the difficulty is real, but is also a time of uplift.

"You're weeping," he said. "Go ahead and do your crying. But you're not abandoned. God will pick you up, set you up on your feet, and send you on your way."

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