Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
September 24, 2001
PM, wife attend Mass on national day of mourning
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his wife, Aline, made an unannounced visit to Notre Dame Cathedral Sept. 14 to attend a special Mass marking the National Day of Mourning for the victims of terrorist attacks on the United States.
The Chretiens, who are Catholics, attended the Mass as private citizens and were accompanied only by a team of security officers. Both received Communion from Archbishop Marcel Gervais, who presided at the Mass, attended by about 300 people.
As the prime minister listened, the archbishop spoke in his homily of the need for restraint in response to the attacks.
"We cannot allow all of this suffering and misery to end up in more sterile acts of violence," he said. "We cannot allow ourselves to believe that the calculated hate that motivated those who committed these crimes should be met with more calculated hate in revenge.
"Without the slightest warning, without the slightest chance to prepare, we have been plunged into an impenetrable darkness," Archbishop Gervais said.
However, he cautioned, "This despair can lead us to search for answers in earthly things, to take matters into our own hands and, even, in our grief, to act against certain groups from whom the perpetrators of this evil may have come."
The archbishop had invited the Chretiens to attend the Mass while taking part in the National Day of Mourning on Parliament Hill earlier in the day. Up to 100,000 people attended that event, which was criticized for having no mention of God.
"Of all the Western countries, we were the only one who did it in a strictly secular way," said Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. "That wasn't right."
"God has a place at these things," Msgr. Schonenbach said in a homily at Holy Redeemer Church Sept. 16.
During the Sept. 14 service, no prayers were recited, no mention of God was made, and while the leaders of the major denominational and faith groups — including Archbishop Gervais — sat in front-row seats during the half-hour ceremony, none was asked to lead a prayer or give a short reflection.
The absence of active religious participation at the event contrasted sharply with similar national memorial services in the United States, Great Britain and elsewhere.
Msgr. Robert Martineau, rector of St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral in Ottawa, said that by being politically correct, the government was neglecting the needs of the people.
"They're so afraid of turning people off people who aren't Christian that they just eliminate it altogether," he told a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen.
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