Notre-Dame Panel Discussion

Sixty participants gathered together in Classroom C of Regis College for a Panel Discussion surrounding the devastating fire that damaged the Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019. Gordon Rixon, SJ, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Regis College, organized the Panel Discussion in order to facilitate conversation from diverse perspectives and reflect upon this important contemporary event in Paris. In particular, Fr. Rixon SJ wished to highlight the role of theology in understanding the various reactions and effects that this event caused in the lives of both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Panelists came from a variety of academic disciplines: historians, theologians, philosophers, and architects – all of whom contributed to the conversation from their area of expertise. This panel discussion offered a space for participants to voice their concerns, questions, and even their grief, over the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral. For many, Notre-Dame is not just a historical and religious monument – it is a secondary home, a place of worship, and a space where heaven and earth seem to intersect. It is in this Church that so many Christians have found a deeper understanding of themselves and a deeper appreciation of their faith.

Alumna Anne Quinn-Wallace, a participant at the event, notes that the catastrophe at Notre-Dame Cathedral truly “hit home in a deep and personal way.” Having lived in Europe for a time, she found that the Notre-Dame Cathedral was a space that nurtured her spiritually. The damaging fire that damaged the Cathedral allowed her to reflect not just upon the vulnerability of our human-made structures, but also of our own personal vulnerabilities as human beings.

Quinn-Wallace says that the panel discussion was cathartic, and it allowed participants to express their grief as well as gain hope, knowing that there was such an outpouring of generosity globally for restoring the Cathedral from its fallen state.

Our panelists were given the opportunity to speak to how the Cathedral affected their professional fields. Our first ten-minute discussion was led by Robert Sweetman, who holds the H. Evan Runner Chair in the History of Philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies. Bringing an extensive background of Mediaeval history into the conversation allowed participants to gain a deeper understanding of the wealth and historical treasure that is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.

Roberto Chiotti, Principal of Larkin Architect Limited, spoke to how Notre-Dame is an expression of the theology of its time as well as the unique architectural that has attracted so many tourists. From an architectural perspective, Chiotti explained what can be done to maintain the integrity of the Cathedral during the restoration project. Katharine Lochnan predicted the continuing role that Notre-Dame will play as an artistic monument of the age of faith in a secularized society.

Finally, Regis College President Fr. Thomas Worcester, who has spent much time in Paris and visited the Cathedral regularly, brought a personal perspective to the conversation, explaining the significance, both politically and historically, of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Fr. Worcester is confident that Notre-Dame  will continue to thrive and inspire both Christians and non-Christians alike.