King Charles III makes a stop at fire-damaged Notre-Dame cathedral on day 2 of his visit to France

PRAIS, Sep 21: King Charles III went from a meeting with young athletes in a working-class, multicultural suburb of Paris to an emotional stop in front of the fire-damaged Notre Dame cathedral today, the second day of his state visit to France.

Earlier, Charles made an address to lawmakers at the Senate, praising France and the United Kingdom’s “indispensable relationship” and its capacity to meet the world’s challenges, including the war in Ukraine and climate change.

Charles and Queen Camilla, accompanied by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, paid much attention to a presentation about ongoing renovation work at Notre Dame, one day after the king said he had been “utterly appalled by the scenes of such devastation following the catastrophic fire” in April 2019.

Charles and Camilla were not able to enter the cathedral for safety reasons, but Macron invited them to take a closer look at the entrance as dozens of workers on the higher floors of the monument applauded the king and took pictures. The cathedral is due to reopen at the end of next year.

During the day, Charles made a few stops to greet the crowds waiting for him along the streets of the sites he visited, including the Paris flower market named after his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

In Saint-Denis, north of the capital, Charles chatted with young athletes while Camilla exchanged a few balls with Prithika Pavade, a 19-year-old French table tennis player. The area will serve as a major venue in next year’s Olympics.

Residents said the royal visit to Saint-Denis was a welcome boost for the town with deep pockets of poverty, a reputation for crime and a feeling among many of being left by the wayside.

“A lot of people are poor and it has a reputation as a cut-throat place,” said Yasmina Bedar, who was born in Saint-Denis and has lived there for 50 years.

“For a king in real flesh and blood to come to Saint-Denis of course can only help our image,” she said, chatting with friends in the Le Khédive café where Charles stopped to sit down for a few minutes with job seekers.

Café owner Sid Ould-Moussa said, “It’s excellent for the town, for us.”

The king also met there with the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who gave him the club’s No. 3 jersey and explained the club’s involvement in supporting young people and communities in difficulty.

Charles and Camilla briefly visited the basilica of Saint-Denis, which houses the tombs of French kings.

In the morning, the king received a warm welcome from French lawmakers from both the upper and lower houses of parliament gathered at the Senate, who stood and applauded him at length.

The partnership between the two nations “remains utterly vital as together we confront the challenges of this world,” he said, switching from French to English. “The United Kingdom will always be one of France’s closest allies and best friends.”

“Our determination and our alliance are more important than ever” in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he added. “Together, we are steadfast in our determination Ukraine will triumph, and that our cherished freedoms will prevail.”

Charles offered to adapt the Franco-British “Entente Cordiale,” a 1904 series of agreements that settled former disputes and significantly improved relations, into an “entente for sustainability in order to tackle the global climate and biodiversity emergency more effectively.”

“There’s no challenge we can’t meet, as we have so often done in the past,” he said.

The king’s emphasis on climate change came a day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced he was watering down some of Britain’s climate commitments, including pushing back a ban on new gas and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

Charles and Macron later attended a reception for British and French business leaders about financing climate-related and biodiversity projects.

The royal couple’s trip started Wednesday with a ceremony at Arc de Triomphe in Paris and a state dinner at the Palace of Versailles.

It will end on Friday with a stop in Bordeaux, the southwestern city that is home to a large British community. (AP)