referring to places of worship in Europe.
Well, take it from me, that's baloney.
In Paris alone, there are hundreds of cathedrals, synagogues, temples,
mosques and pagodas -- many distinctly diverse and out-of-the-ordinary.
Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Orthodox,
and more, there's something for everyone.
Whether you're hoping to quench your spiritual leanings or to satisfy a yen
for luscious architecture, Paris offers a melting pot of faith and design.
During my last visit to Paris, I couldn't bear to face Notre Dame's new reality,
the gut-wrenching damages from the 2019 fire.
Looking for something a bit off the beaten path, I ventured deep into the
5th arrondissement and discovered a new and enchanting holy place.
A search for the exotic is the reason many of us travel.
My first stop, the Grande Mosquée de Paris, rewarded that quest.
You're transported to another time and place.
The Grand Mosque of Paris is as exotic as it gets, mysteriously novel to
newcomers not educated in the theory and practice of the Muslim faith.
Visitors are welcome to walk around as they wish with one exception; the
prayer room is reserved exclusively for those observing the Muslim faith.
With its fountains, flowering trees and emerald green shrubbery,
the patio is positively poetic, a sure bet to wake up
your curiosity the moment you arrive.
Surrounded by ornate tiles and the soft sounds of a tranquil fountain,
you may feel as if you've woken up in Marrakech instead of Paris.
The sunken garden is the perfect spot to revive yourself, a perfect
sanctuary that pays tribute to nature at its peaceful best.
which valiantly enlisted and fought for France during WWI.
The moment I laid eyes on its square minaret, I was reminded that
many of France's greatest treasures exceed a momentary satisfaction.
These sites exist for the greater good; as temporary guests
we are fortunate to be able to take in their soul-stirring example.
Substantial evidence has been uncovered of a true-to-life war story
that took place in the colorful halls of the Great Mosque.
During WWII, the mosque's rector saved between 200 and 500
Jews and resistance fighters.
By issuing fake certificates of Muslim identity, they
offered safe passage, preserving the lives of innocent people.
The mosque's rector, Si Kaddour Ben Gabrit, was eventually awarded
the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor and recognized by Yad Vashem*
as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
*Israel's memorial to the victims of the Holocaust
of Al-Azhar co-authored and signed a document focused
on the goals of world peace and human fraternity.
If you don't know about this, I urge you to google "Abu Dhabi Document"
for the opportunity to read about the holy alliance these spiritual leaders
initiated to come together in a new spirit of peace and love.
Perhaps a first step in your own education is to visit a holy site of "another" that
you may not fully understand but may come to gain insight into and appreciate.
"Faith leads a believer to see in the other
a brother or sister to be supported and loved."
Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyab
awaken to a "different" viewpoint of the city.
Like many of the great cathedrals of Paris, it offers a learning experience
and perhaps, even more important, a closer connection
to everyday life in the community.
Many of us travel so we can immerse ourselves into
a cultural diversity we don't enjoy at home.
Why not walk through the door of a new spiritual frontier, not to change
your own course necessarily but to open your eyes to the world at large.
"Religions are different roads converging upon the same point. What does
it matter that we take different roads as long as we reach the same goal."
often referred to as the Armenian Church of St John the Baptist.
Located near the Champs Elysée on rue Goujon,
it's easy to visit and well worth the stop.
The French Armenian community is the largest in the European Union.
Many Armenian refugees moved to Paris following the Armenian genocide*.
Still more are asylum seekers arrived from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Iran,
hotspots where people of this faith and ethnicity are no longer
easily integrated into society.
*the mass extermination and expulsion of roughly 1.5 million Armenians
by the Ottoman government from 1914 to 1923
it's a Christian faith with close ties to the Catholic Church.
The Armenians are an ancient orthodox community whose history claims
it was the first state* to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the 4th century. For many years, they suffered and fought to maintain their spiritual community.
The founding of a beautiful church in Paris was a triumph of faith and determination.
*then called the Kingdom of Armenia
baptized and wed in the Armenian Church of Paris?
On October 6th, 2018, a requiem in his honor was held post-mortem.
Aznavour (given name Aznavourian) was born of immigrant parents.
Long recognized not only for his sad love songs and bevy of famous lovers,
he was also honored for his service during WWII after giving
shelter to Jews and Armenians trying to dodge the Nazis.
Named "Entertainer of the Century" by CNN and Time Online,
he edged out the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
His music -- much like Paris itself -- is timeless.
an iconic church in the heart of the sixth arrondissement.
Just across from tourist favorite Café Les Deux Magots,
this property is currently enjoying a major facelift.
The restoration is not complete but oh my, what a difference it has already made.
Originally built around 512 AD, the church (built as a Benedictine monastery)
previously held celebrated relics from the One True Cross.
Rebuilt around 1000 AD, it was again nearly destroyed
during the French Revolution.
Initially employed as a prison -- off with their heads -- it was later used to
store saltpeter (the key ingredient in gunpowder), setting off a massive explosion. The damage was monstrous and sanctuary was again out of commission.
Due to the historic nature of the property, they tried one more time,
rebuilding in 1862.
Finally restored* in the 19th century, its square bell tower dominates the skyline
of the exclusive neighborhood. Its Romanesque and Gothic architecture reminds
us of its bragging rights as the oldest church in Paris.
*Victor Hugo led the campaign to restore the nearly unsalvageable church; it took 30 years to complete.
But now, with this latest facelift, the old grime has been lifted,
brightening up the dark interior immensely.
The luster of the artwork has been restored in more than half the church
thus far, its heavenly colors restored to their original glory.
Luscious paintings and frescoes decorate the nave.
Rich marble columns, a gorgeous floor and incredible acoustics
complete the reincarnation.
Judaism are among the faiths the citizenry of France holds dearly.
The country has come a long way in religious tolerance -- from
"I am the religion of all those who are brave and good"* to
"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."**
*King Henri IV of France; **Napoleon Bonaparte
In 1905, France was officially established as a secular state, pledging
to perpetuate the separation of church and state.
France and many democracies have long trumpeted a simple truth.
Governments do better without kings and noblemen than with them.
Adding to that principle, as U.S. President James Madison once said,
"Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government."
Religious tolerance may wobble from time to time throughout
history -- today's treatment of Jews in France is a particularly sad state
of affairs -- yet whenever I have the opportunity to visit a holy site,
I'm reminded of the big picture.
When we work together, it's beautiful; when we don't, we face life's ugliest horrors.
Millions of us worldwide look forward to the day we can once again
visit a rehabbed Notre Dame Cathedral.
But while you wait, don't let anything keep you from enjoying
a spiritual walk in Paris.
There is much to discover in this city that God has blessed.
"Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs.
Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others."
President John F. Kennedy