WASHINGTON (CNS) — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recalled the heroic deeds of first responders and security forces during the Sept. 11 attacks around the country on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the day’s harrowing events.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles also remembered those who lost family members and friends at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania and said those who died are memorialized in prayer on this anniversary.
“We pray for the innocent lives that were lost, and we pray for those who grieve, and for the many who still bear the wounds from these attacks, physical, emotional and spiritual,” Archbishop Gomez said in a statement released by the USCCB Sept. 10.
The first responders that day “gave their lives in the service of their neighbors,” he said.
“This violence, borne of worst evil in the human heart, also brought out the best in our humanity. We think today of the courage and generosity of countless ordinary people and the spirit of unity and authentic patriotism we saw in the days after these attacks,” the statement said.
“We honor the dead by the way we live. And today we pray for a new spirit of national pride and unity. May God inspire in all of us to seek fellowship, reconciliation and common purpose.”
The archbishop also asked God “to bring comfort to those who mourn and peace to every heart that is consumed by hatred, and may he bring peace to our troubled world.”
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who also issued a statement about the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, said: “We were changed by what happened that day. Those terrible events would rend our hearts and minds, forever changing our understanding of what it is to be safe and free.”
“We remember those who lost their lives. We pray for the eternal repose of their souls,” the archbishop said. “We also recall the ongoing toll the attacks took on so many lives and the immeasurable suffering borne by family members and friends to this day.”
He also urged people to recall “how the worst of tragedies brought out the best of us: the courageous and selfless service of first responders and emergency workers who heroically risked their lives to save others, and the ways both great and small that we banded together as a nation to care for and support one another.”
Archbishop Lori said the 9/11 anniversary should remind people of the gift of unity and also said it “should not take a tragedy such as these terrorist attacks to bring us together.”
Amid the current divisions in the nation and world, he said that maybe “remembering 9/11 will prompt us, through God’s grace, to a renewed commitment to building up the unity of the human family.”
He also recalled the words St. John Paul II shared just after the attacks, saying they “still move us today.”
“Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail,” the pope said at the time, “those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.”
In Detroit, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron prayed for those who died in the attacks during a memorial program along the Detroit River early Sept. 10.
He was among Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders who participated in the event, which started at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first jetliner struck the World Trade Center. About 200 people, most of whom were police, firefighters, U.S. Border Patrol agents and service personnel, attended the ceremony.
“Lord God, as we commemorate this day, Sept. 11, as a time for remembrance and resolve, we ask you to hear us,” Archbishop Vigneron prayed during the invocation.
“In your presence, Lord, we remember those who were victims of terrorism on that dreadful day. Those who died, those who were injured or wounded in body or spirit, and those whose loved ones are among the victims, we entrust anew into your hands, there to find safety and healing beyond what the world offers.”
Archbishop Vigneron also paid tribute to the first responders “who put themselves in harm’s way,” praying that they were sustained “by the sure knowledge that their sacrifices were pleasing in your sight, and continue to be held in high honor by us.”
Along with Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Dearborn Heights-based Islamic Institute of America and Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, the archbishop prayed for a rejection of violence in the name of religion, as well as to “refrain from blaming the many for the actions of the few.”
Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to ground zero in 2008, Archbishop Vigneron asked God to guide and comfort those who continue to mourn 20 years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
“Grant that those whose lives were spared may so live, that the lives lost may not have been lost in vain,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among the nations.”
Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez urged people not to forget the magnitude of the tragedy of 20 years ago in a statement released Sept. 10.
“It would have been easy to sink into the abyss of fear and despair that day. However, the American spirit prevailed in a time of crisis and shined forth with a resilient and enduring light,” he said.
He also pointed out that “in the wake of disaster, our human family stood united in the presence of God. His love flowed through us and inspired us to encounter one another with tenderness and mercy.”
Noting that several events marking the anniversary were planned around Philadelphia, the archbishop said such remembrances calls the human family to “reflect on a dark moment as well as the fragility of the gift of life.”
“At the same time, they present an opportunity to renew our trust and hope in God,” his statement continued.
The archbishop invited prayers for those who continue to suffer 20 years after the events of two decades ago that they would find comfort and peace in God.
Pax Christi USA in a Sept. 10 statement urged that the path of nonviolence as practiced by Jesus be pursued any time that violent actions harm human life.
“The grief of 9/11 has not been assuaged or erased or vindicated by 20 years of war, an array of military strategies, or the unbounded increase in military spending,” the Catholic peace organization said.
“We were not silent 20 years ago and we will not be silent today: Our faith impels us in the face of death and violence to respond with justice and compassion. It illuminates the moment and points out the urgent need for a paradigm shift toward nonviolence in our country and the world.”
The organization called for a pause on “any future rush to solve problems through military means” and said the world must resort to new ways to address conflict and violence.
“We must find the courage to put into practice Gospel nonviolence as a way of life, but also as one of the most practical means to end this spiral of violence. Our collective vision and commitment to nonviolence and just peace will bring life and joy to communities around the world,” it said.