Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
September 17, 2001
Pope says 'no' to 'spiral of hatred'
Church leaders deplore terrorist attacks on U.S.
WCR NEWS SERVICES
Pope John Paul and other Catholic leaders deplored massive terror attacks on the United States and said that violence leads not to justice but to greater injustice.
The pope said the terrorist attacks marked "a dark day in the history of humanity" and asked pilgrims during a general audience Sept. 12 to join him in prayer.
Dropping ordinary audience procedure, the pope devoted his entire text Sept. 12 to the attacks less than 24 hours earlier, in which hijacked planes destroyed New York's World Trade Centre towers and damaged the Pentagon.
Initial casualty estimates suggested that thousands of people were killed.
At the end of the audience, the pope led prayers for the disaster's victims and for the ultimate victory of reconciliation and peace. "Let us beg the Lord that the spiral of hatred and violence will not prevail," he said.
A papal aide read a prayer petition, asking God to help Americans who are suffering "not to let themselves be overwhelmed by sorrow, despair and a spirit of vengeance" but instead to "commit themselves to building a better world" in the confidence that good will triumph over evil.
"Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say," the pope told 25,000 pilgrims in an eerily quiet St. Peter's Square.
Among those listening to the pope were hundreds of Americans.
Many of the Americans seemed to feel more disbelief and bewilderment than anger and a desire for retaliation.
Hiding teary and reddened eyes behind dark sunglasses, Mary Kavaney, a senior official in the New York state attorney general's office, said, "It's just comforting to hear him speak."
Shortly after the pope learned of the Sept. 11 attacks, he sent a telegram to U.S. President George W. Bush saying he was horrified at the "inhuman terrorist attacks" and offering prayers for the victims and all Americans.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, said that as soon as he heard the news of the attacks, the pope went to pray "to beg from the Lord the end of such fratricidal violence."
Church leaders in Canada reacted with horror to the terrorist attacks.
In Edmonton, Archbishop Thomas Collins released a statement saying, "we pray for the repose of the souls (of those who have died), and for consolation for their families and friends in this time of profound grief.
"We pray also that the people turn away from the false pathway of violence, which leads nowhere."
Collins said the annual Mass for the faithful departed to be held Sept. 15 will be offered "not only for our own loved ones who have died, but also for the victims of this horrible atrocity.
"I ask that in all Masses in the Archdiocese of Edmonton this coming Sunday prayers be offered for those who have died and been injured."
Bishop Gerald Wiesner, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "When faced with events such as this atrocity, words cannot be found."
Wiesner invited all Canadians to pray for the victims and their families, and for peace.
In the U.S., the administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, "We pray . . . for those whose hatred has become so great that they are willing to engage in crimes against our common humanity.
"May they realize, at last, that such violence creates not justice but greater injustice.''
The bishops' statement mourned the loss of life and expressed concern for the victims' families and asked that God strengthen rescue workers and those ministering to victims "in their heroic and often heartbreaking work."
The statement also asked citizens to avoid labelling, stereotyping and jumping to conclusions about who might be responsible for the terrorist acts.
"We call upon all . . . to renew their trust in God and to turn away from the bitter fruits of the kind of hatred which is the source of this tragedy," it said.
The statement noted that on Sept. 14 and 15 the Church would celebrate "the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross and then honour our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows."
"These are particularly apt days for Catholics to reflect on the ways in which we are called to take up the cross and follow our Lord," the statement said.
In New York, Cardinal Edward Egan told worshippers gathered for Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral Sept. 11 that the Gospel message to New Yorkers is "Do not be afraid."
Egan acknowledged the horror of the nightmare the city was going through, and extended the Church's support for families of the victims.
But he said "a provident God" would enable New Yorkers to "make our way through this tragedy."
Egan also urged New Yorkers to avoid personal hatred for the perpetrators.
"As an American citizen, I want justice done in a court of law," he said. But he said Americans should not give way to hate and think in terms of retaliation or "an eye for an eye."
The cardinal said that a few minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Centre, he went to St. Vincent's Hospital, where many of the injured were taken, and then to other places where people were responding to emergency needs.
He declared that he had seen "New York at its best," and found the city "shaken but not shattered."
Many of the police and firefighters had blood coming through the soot that covered them, and "hardly noticed it." Even elderly doctors and nurses were jumping around and moving rapidly to take care of the patients coming in, he said.
"They were utterly selfless, real New Yorkers," he said. "They were truly an inspiration."
Egan said he gave last rites to a number of the seriously injured victims at St. Vincent's, and was told one of them died only a few minutes later.
In Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said it is essential that the United States does not seek vengeance against any ethnic group.
"We must pray for our nation, this beloved United States of America, that in the continual search for peace and justice, that we must resist the temptation to strike out in vengeance or revenge, or lay blame on any ethnic groups," McCarrick said.
The cardinal made his remarks during a Sept. 11 Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The cardinal urged caution in the rush for justice, and called for prayers for those touched by the tragedy.
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