home
RSS
9/11 Ceremony won't include clergy or formal prayers
Visitors look over Ground Zero. Some religious leaders are upset there will be no formal prayers during the 10th anniversary ceremony.
August 25th, 2011
07:48 PM ET

9/11 Ceremony won't include clergy or formal prayers

By, Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– As the city of New York prepares to remember the 10th anniversary of 9/11, religious leaders are raising concerns over the lack of clergy participating in the anniversary events.

"Utterly disappointed and surprised," Fernado Cabrera a New York City councilman and the pastor of New Life Outreach International church in the Bronx, said over the decision not to include any clergy in the ceremony.

"There's certain things that government cannot do, and answering questions of meaning of 'Why are we going through this?' and 'Where am I going to get strength from?' - those are existential questions that can only be answered from a spiritual aspect," Cabrera said.

"I'm telling you I saw it first hand, the power of prayer," he added of his time at ground zero on September 11, 2001.

Cabrera said he reached out to the mayor's office and was told there would be no prayer in this year's ceremony.

He has started a petition on Facebook to change that.

"The ceremony was designed in coordination with 9/11 families with a mixture of readings that are spiritual, historical and personal in nature," Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said in an e-mail to CNN.

"It has been widely supported for the past 10 years and rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died."

The exclusion of clergy was first widely reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League rejected the mayor's office explanation of potential religious infighting over who would get to pray, saying the issue is sorted out all the time for presidential inaugurations and other major events.

"What [the mayor] did is what he often does, which is to make autocratic decisions," Donahue said. "I don't think this is something that will sit well with New Yorkers and the biggest mistake Bloomberg has made is he's given us three weeks."

On July 29 Bloomberg spoke about the ceremony during his weekly radio show. He announced that President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush would both be attending and participating, as well as other politicians and elected officials.

"This cannot be political," Bloomberg told the radio audience. "That's why there's a poem or a quote or something that each one of the readers will read." He added there would be "no speeches whatsoever."

While he was talking about which officials would attend, he noted, "There's an awful lot of people that would like to participate but you just can't do that, once you open it up. So the argument here is it's elected officials and those who were there at the time and had some influence."

There have been 10 ceremonies at ground zero in New York to pause and remember the events of 9/11, one six months after the attack and on September 11 each following year.

Spirituality and religion have been reserved for the moments of silence in those events.

In past ceremonies, four moments of silence were observed to mark when each tower was struck and when each tower fell.

For this year's ceremony, organizers added two additional moments of silence to recognize the strike on the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"This year's six moments of silence allow every individual a time for personal and religious introspection," Erskine said.

Throughout the city there will be other prayer events leading up to September 11.

In particular, the New York Police Department will be hosting its own ceremony, which will include prayers, at Lincoln Center on September 8.

The event is scheduled to include Rabbi Alvin Kass, the chief of chaplains for the NYPD; Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archbishop emeritus of New York; and the mayor.

But Donahue and Cabrera said because this is the 10th anniversary, there should be clergy and prayer in the 9/11 ceremony to reflect the contribution faith, religion, and spirituality played in the recovery.

"This is not a message of unity when you begin to exclude people who were crucial in the turnaround moment that we needed," Cabrera said.

Donahue said he hoped the mayor would reconsider and invite clergy to participate.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 9/11 • Belief

soundoff (1,461 Responses)
  1. Armen Keuilian

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS_KCDxinFQ&w=640&h=360]

    Today, we can once again unite as our country did on 9/11/2001... to fight against terror and tyranny in this world.

    September 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  2. Eric Cathcaart

    And what about us who do have religion? This is really an unfortunate mistake of a decision. When we loose friends and love ones and then loose our patriotic pride as a country then loose faith and hope, then we are in a very sad place. If there ever was a time to hear comforting words from our clergy it would be now. This is a video I made a few days ago. Look at the images and tell me that there is not a spirit moving in and around all of us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZKgojQnx1k

    September 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  3. Mary Anne Landers

    I think the religious element should be kept private rather than public. A minute of silence would suffice. If the authorities in charge of these events select religious officials to say prayers or give mini-sermons, there will inevitably be controversy over who to include and who to exclude. Not to mention how the words these officials speak can be interpreted when they're not preaching to the choir.

    September 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  4. wilbur

    Suppose Jesus were to float down on a Cloud to New York that day:
    1. F-22 fighter bombers scrambled, dozens of missiles are fired and hit the crowd.
    2. Jesus makes it down to earth and is immediately sent to Gitmo.

    IRAN. Then I took a bullet in the leg. Now...IHOP

    September 9, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  5. RKB

    The attacks on 09/11/01 were not an attack against religion-they were attacks of hatred and misguided political views of the U.S.A. & all the country stands for.

    September 9, 2011 at 5:01 am |
  6. RKB

    ...a priest,an Imam and a rabbi were on the "Joy Behar Show" and... there was not a Baptist or a Methodist or a Presbyterian or Episcopal or Morman represented!!

    September 9, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  7. rhonda

    ‎"If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other in Christ." ~ Mother Teresa

    September 5, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  8. Jon

    Mayor Bloomberg; Someone had this idea; At the end of the 6th moment of silence, everyone should recite the Lord's Prayer, (Sounds like freedom of speech). Spread the word here:
    http://www.riversongs.com/indescribable.html

    September 4, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • wilbur

      Go with Psalm 23 (Psalm of David). That short message is all you really need to know.

      September 9, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  9. erasmus

    Christianity has made liberty possible in the world. What it is hard to understand for all the square heads, is that there is a big difference between human understanding of the Scriptures and what the letter of the Law of God says. A Divine Principle is flawless by it's nature. Human understanding however is erred so often.So, it seems, that there is a popular sport to "crucify" God for human derailment....is it fair?

    September 4, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • wilbur

      c hristianity is the worship of death, homicide, and r ape. The Cross is the electric chair of its day. You worship that. Other than the easter bunny, the whole christian religion is nothing but a way from priests, etc. to bugger kids. Same goes of Islam but not nearly as bad.

      September 9, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  10. erasmus

    For all the Bible, and Christian haters: don't worry. The moment America will become secular, and it is on that way for a while now, Muslims will convert everybody to Islam. So, enjoy you liberty now. After 10-20 year, everybody will bow down on the carpet, and will eat lamb and cheese.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • wilbur

      Sounds good to me. Do we get a Hookah?

      September 9, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • wilbur

      The Bible is useful... as a fire starter to burn down c hristian churches on Sunday full of c hristians. think texas. In an emergency it can be used as toilet tissue.

      September 9, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  11. achildoftheking

    I Believe prayer should be allowed for those family members who need the spiritual support. For those who do not wish to have the spiritual support of prayer, go about your business and don't listen to what the clergy men/women give their blessings. I don't care if your catholic,baptist,protestant,lutherin,muslim,mormon,etc, EVERYONE has the freedom of religion and should be allowed to exercise that right, denying clergy no matter what religion is sacreligious. Those who do not believe in religion or god, you can exercise your rights to freedom of religion by not listening! THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET!!!!! WHY ARE WE LETTING OUR GOVERNMENT TAKE EVERYTHING AWAY FROM US???? IT'S TIME TO STAND UP FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS AND BELIEFS!!!!!

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, with LIBERTY, and JUSTICE FOR ALL."

    I think it is time to impeach some government officials at ALL levels starting AT THE TOP!!!!

    September 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Drew

      How about instead of making a public spectacle by inviting a representative from every last religion, we refrain, and allow people to personally reflect. That isnt what you're after though... you guys play the freedom of religion card when you think its being taken away, but really you just want a christian theocratic order. Been there, done that, its called the Dark Ages.

      September 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • RKB

      I don't agree with the impeachment issue but I agree that everyone has the right to believe what they believe. Listen to the RUSH song "Freewill"-..."if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice"..."I WILL CHOOSE FREEWILL!!!"

      September 9, 2011 at 4:48 am |
  12. Firefighter/Medic

    I Believe prayer should be allowed for those family members who need the spiritual support. For those who do not wish to have the spiritual support of prayer, go about your business and don't listen to what the clergy men/women give their blessings. I don't care if your catholic,baptist,protestant,lutherin,muslim,mormon,etc, EVERYONE has the freedom of religion and should be allowed to exercise that right, denying clergy no matter what religion is sacreligious. Those who do not believe in religion or god, you can exercise your rights to freedom of religion by not listening! THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET!!!!! WHY ARE WE LETTING OUR GOVERNMENT TAKE EVERYTHING AWAY FROM US???? IT'S TIME TO STAND UP FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS AND BELIEFS!!!!!

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, with LIBERTY, and JUSTICE FOR ALL."

    I think it is time to impeach some government officials at ALL levels starting AT THE TOP!!!!

    September 3, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • i wonder

      Use those moments of silence (I understand that there will be 6 of them at different times) to pray silently all you like. You can even pray silently during the speeches if you wish. Does your "God" only hear prayers if they come over the loudspeakers or something...? Do you forget how to do it unless you have someone leading you...?

      September 3, 2011 at 3:54 am |
    • Anon

      Ram a bible up your @$$.

      September 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • achildoftheking

      i hope you dont mind i reposted your comment ,

      September 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  13. Jose Carrillo

    Well but this one is real good to read it show how poor understanding between the so call CLERGY and GOVERNMENT have between . Its the message of 9-11 to bring us together not matter what our differences are? where is the spirit of United we stand , this is not about Clergy or Government disputed like little kids on school and say "oh I want to be on the front " or "no you going to the back" this is about all us Americans and those want to share with us . I remember my teacher on first grade went this kind of dispute happen –"No me NO you " she say "stop everyone and bring the best you have to share" end of problem.

    September 3, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  14. JWCamp

    I have no problem with the exclusion of the clergy from this event, religion caused all this in the first place.

    September 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Roy Gertig

      I agree that these ceremonies should be secular, but I disagree that religion caused the whole thing. You had 18 criminals use religion, in this case Islam, as a front to perform criminal acts against Western society.

      September 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Maria

      I agree

      September 8, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  15. Momof2

    Disappointed is an understatement! This country will miss out on the Blessings of God for sure if prayer isn't included in this memorial....Mayor Bloomberg, you'd better rethink this & fast!!! God help us!

    September 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Ron Romero

      Taking God out of currency, schools, political issues, sporting events to name just a few? We have the right and should have the privledge to recgognize all lives lost and the effects it imployed on loved ones and friends. Say what you want
      or decide Mr.NYC Mayor.......The Almighty will convey unto all of victims and others as we will close our eyes in prayer.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • JWCamp

      What you are saying is that you want YOUR religion included. If clergy is involved then they need to have clergy from every religion of the victims involved...that includes Muslim clergy since there were Muslims working in the WTC when it was demolished.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Real Deal

      "This country will miss out on the Blessings of God for sure if prayer isn't included in this memorial...."

      What an odd god you have...

      September 3, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  16. Kahn

    Megadeth – Go to Hell

    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Pray the lord my soul to keep
    If I die before i wake
    Pray the lord to take

    I'm not going to wake up today
    They've pulled my plug the picture fades
    And as my body decays mold begins to fill my grave
    The smell of death permeates the silk within my coffin lays
    Go to hell

    As they bury me now six feet there my body lies
    Still feel like I'm giong down I hear a distant wailing cry
    God something must've gone wrong
    And much too late I realize
    Go to hell

    I saw my funeral that day
    I know who didn't show to mourn
    My judgement was life in hell
    Pillars of pain and thorns
    My only friend's the goat
    With 666 between his horns
    Go to hell

    Place all your trust here in me
    Rest assured these things I know
    And as Charon sails the sea
    Your journey too shall end below
    Ah yes you're all sitting ducks
    It's true you reap what you sow
    Go to hell

    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Blah, blah, blah my soul to keep
    If I die before I wake
    I'll go to hell for heaven's sake

    -----

    September 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  17. Jim Jensen

    No clergy at a memorial? The liberals are throwing God under the bus. America is turning her back on Israel. This will seal our fate and surely turn around to bite us. The serpent is winning in DC.

    August 31, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  18. crow t robot

    no clergy? GOOD!

    August 31, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  19. Anon

    All Christians are screwed up in the head.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUVXEmJRGns&w=640&h=360]

    August 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Michael

      Sorry to not be aware of Dr. Craig's argument but a comment or two may still be made in response. For one, it's an overstatement to say that all Christians are screwed in the head as I think it would be to make a blanket statement of any group based on how one might define them. There are certainly some people in the world who have done some very destructive, morally reprehensible things and justified that by their beliefs. The men that committed the crimes on September 11, 2001 were at least partly, if not completely, motivated by Jihad. It would be absolutely ridiculous to claim that their actions are representative of the vast majority of the beliefs held by Muslims. Christians have also committed horrific crimes they felt justified to commit by their beliefs. The recent terrorist in Norway comes to mind, yet there are few, if any, Christians who would not condemn such crimes or even recognize whatever motivated this man as beliefs that share any more than name.
      I don't think it's so much a belief system that leads to psychopath as Mr. Harris seems to be asserting as it is fundamentalism. In my view, that is something that can take an ideaology to such an extreme that it becomes distorted, exclusive, polarizing, and even destructive. McCarthyism is an example of political fundamentalism but not all politicians can be fairly accused of black listing people. The crusades were motivated somewhat by Christianity (politics were factors as well) but they are not representative of all Christians then and certainly not of all Christians now. And like it or not, some of humanity's worst crimes have been committed in attempts to rid the world of religion or religious groups and were based on atheistic ideologies. Stalinism and the Holocaust are a couple of glaring examples. Doesn't mean that atheists are immoral or evil but simply an example of how horrors can be committed in the name of any set of beliefs even when those beliefs aren't held to such an extreme by the majority of fellow adherents. Dr. Craig's statements are surely held by a number of Christians. No argument there. But I assure you, they are not held by all Christians, and may very possibly not be held by the overall majority of Christians. Again, my apologies for not being familiar with them. I'm simply responding to the statements made in the video. I am a chaplain in a mainline protestant denomination if you're wondering, and will share with you that many Christians do not believe in condemning or judging others for their beliefs however different they may be from our own. This afternoon, I prayed with a Hindu family after we agreed to simply appeal from shared belief in divinity. I've also led self described atheists and agnostic in non-theistic guided meditations at their request and do not feel that such attempts to comfort others compromises what I or they believe. Not all Christians read the Bible literally but take much of it to be collections of folktales, poetry, and history that sometimes illustrate how difficult it can be to navigate through life and grapple with the questions of where we come from, where we're going, and how we are to live in the meantime. Many Christians don't take their faith to be just words spoken or as assurance that they won't go to hell or heaven but as motivation to live good lives. The particular denomination I'm in holds out hope for an afterlife but admits that it is ultimately a mystery and beside the point. How we act right now is the point and the point is for the betterment of the world and humanity. Perhaps that's part of reason that a number of hospitals and universities have been started or sponsored by churches and many organizations with religious roots committed to humanitarian causes.
      I've read some of the work of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins and appreciate some of their criticism of religion because it's deserved but think they can also be guilty of setting up strawman arguments and turning a blind eye to some of the good that can come from faith.
      I'm thinking this is a bit more a response than you or I expected and it's partly in response to the number of divisive comments on both sides of the debate that have been posted in this blog. For me, it'd be nice to see representation of clergy because is religion is part of how many humans find solace and guidance, especially in moments of reflection on the meaning of life on days like this, but it would have to be done with sensitivity to all there. Not to shove religion down anyone's throat as a number of response think it would, nor to tout one belief system over another. Believe it or not, most people of faith, however that may be defined, get along much better than they're often given credit for.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  20. Christopher

    While sickened by the general tenor of these comments, I have posted a response on my blog.

    "How the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero would benefit from the Presence of Clergy"

    http://www.amongthehills.com/blog/?p=594

    All civil responses appreciated. All hate and pettiness deleted.

    August 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.