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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. AJ

    Good.
    Many churches and temples will be holding their own memorial services – not just in NY, PA, and DC, but all over the country.
    I'll bet some mosques will be doing so as well.
    Leave the clergy out of this specific event- they represent human faction and "fractioning" at our worst.
    This is an occasion for those who lost loved ones and New Yorkers to come together and remember, pay tribute, and offer their respects to our fallen innocents. Leaving organized religion out of it was a wise move (especially since Muslim clerics were also clamoring to be included in the events). They're the last thing I wanna see when I'm there. Sorry – not trying to be offensive – just not ready yet to deal with them yet- the wound is still too tender.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • firedude52

      AJ, I agree and could silently say my prayers in attendance, but selective attendance is WRONG. Denying attendance to those who responded is flat wrong any way you look at it. If necessary hold more than one ceremony/memorial to accommodate. Anything but disrespect to us first responders of America. My brothers and sisters weren't selective in their response. A tribute to those should not be either. After 9-11 I sat with my crew in our house and we cried like babies. To deny those who survived the right to attend is flat wrong! They won't extend proper health coverage either to those exposed to carcinogens who are now sick and dying and they kick them when they are down and tell some that can't even attend?? As already written though they will be remembered ALWAYS.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  2. paperwork

    So the first responders who were there that day aren't invited.
    So...no prayers for peace will be offered, as religious leaders aren't invited.

    So...who is invited besides politicians wanting a photo op?

    August 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • firedude52

      BINGO!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • FlyingSpaghettiMonster

      Did you not understand that there will be 6 moments of silence where people can pray or do whatever their hearts feel like doing? Prayer is not excluded, it's just not being done from the pulpit. Everybody is free to pray or not pray however they want to.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Martin T

      Perhaps even having said event is a bad idea. The truth of the matter is that it changes NOTHING. Here we are ten years in the future and NOTHING is better, we are not safer, we haven't defeated anyone, there is still a threat to our safety, and we spent billions to track down and kill ONE man. I mourn the loss of those lives, I do, but the reality is that there will be far more lives lost to hunger in Africa this year, that there are 60,000 children dying of starvation right now over there. Where is the memorial to them? Where is our humanity toward them????

      August 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  3. firedude52

    As a retired fire captain (who was on duty 9-11) I am appalled at the whole thing. Selective attendance and many ground zero workers denied the right to attend. Bloomberg you are an idiot! I lost over 300 brothers and sisters that day and you deny me the right to attend????? My brothers and sisters did NOT hesitate to run into try and rescue and help!! You've turned your back on me and the public safety family as a whole!! Not even a prayer. That says it all about you. I WILL BE THERE IN THOUGHT AND PRAYER!!! Let me see you tell Obama not to say God Bless America. Go ahead and try! You make me sick to my stomach!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Martin T

      Well I respect your passion if nothing else.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Really???

      May I suggest a peaceful rally just outside the site for everyone who is being excluded from the " historic event" Mayor Bloomburg has turned this years 911 observance into. At least you will be able to have (or not have) clergy of your choice at hand to support you during that sad time, which is more freedom than the attendees will have unfortunately.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  4. Andrea

    I will be praying anyway.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Martin T

      Good for you, tell me how that works out, ok?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  5. Jim WV

    We do not need the mainstream religious mythology.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  6. Azeem

    I think bringing religion is a bad thing. That goes true for other events, such as remembering Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma bombing, etc.

    I thik it is appropriate to siply bow your heads and allow all peoples to silently and respectfully seek God's wisdom and love in the most darkest hohr of our nation. Furthermore, Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S on 9/11–not Islam. Respect, love and happiness is the only method to reconcile our feelings.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  7. DJD

    Maybe the Salvation Army should be recognized/allowed to participate for all the selfless contributions they made in helping during the aftermath of 9/11.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  8. Mary

    This is to appease the muslims. Our country is in trouble.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Martin T

      It appeases me and I'm an atheist, it appeases my son and he's a christian.... you need a new mantra...

      August 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Gpenn

      Oh shut up

      August 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Azeem

      No. You should probably open a book or research Islam before you unfairly critique it.

      Also, the Mayor is promoting a seular ceremony.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  9. RichS

    And yetr you would have hear heard many on that day crying out "Oh my God". To blame God for the event from happening, is to deny that sin does not exist in this world.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Martin T

      To recognize god during that tragic day was to admit that god is Powerless or heartless, either way not worthy of my faith or time.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Really???

      Free will was given to mankind. Who is to blame if mankind uses it for evil?? Well Martin???

      August 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Your argument falls flat.

      Mankind was to blame for that day... were we not supposed to have been created in god's image?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  10. Red Team

    Someone explain the difference between praying out loud in a group being led by a man of the cloth, and a group of people offering up prayers during these moments of silence?

    And if its that big a deal why don't these religious leaders get together and have their own events and raise money to create college funds for the children, pay medical bills for the first responders, or even put money in the widows and children's funds of New York police and fire fighters in honor of the 9/11 victims.

    Seriously learn to see the forest for the trees.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Martin T

      See all that would MAKE SENSE, and religion is about anything but making sense. Look at the obscene amount of money spend against Gay Marriage, compared to the relatively small amount spent each year on feeding the hungry, taking care of the poor, educating the young about safety during love making, etc.... Nope, if it ain't divisive, it ain't worth spending good Christian money on it.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Yep , not like there are any Openly Gay and Lesbian Christians, clergy or Christian churches. 🙂

      August 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Lagos

      I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a joke or not. If so, I fell hook line and sinker. Otherwise, are you seriously suggesting that the Catholic church spends more money fighting gay marriage than helping the poor and hungry? Clearly, if we feed 4000 homeless, disabled, and others in our basement we must spend 10 times as much making sure that Jane and Susan don't hook up.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ Largos, I was referring to the aggregate amount spent by all churches. Back when California was going through the debate of gay marriage, the amount of money spent in advertising against gay marriage was over 8 million dollars. Now, that would feed and clothe and house a whole lot of poor people. Also, take the amount of money we have spent on this "holy war" and spread that wealth to all Americans and we'd all have a nice pot to pee in and a nice window to pour it out of.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  11. Ax

    LOL. We're memorializing the tragic deaths of 3,000 people and the mayor etc. are worried about religious issues. What a bunch of fools. If people want to pray, let them. If they don't, let them. BFD.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • You're missing the point

      No one is saying people can't pray. People are welcome to pray. However, if clergy were going to lead it you would have to invite clergy from all religions in which case there wouldn't be room for anyone else.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  12. WWJD

    I think many of you that have comment here have lost the point, Mayor Bloomberg is repressing our American right to freedom of religion by implying people of faith our not welcome at such a solemn ceremony. When people of faith where some of the first responders that day; ask just about any Fire Fighter or Police Officer in NY, ask a family member of those lost that day. We the people of America great as our nation was and can be again cannot base our faith on each other because that faith will fail, just it has be demonstrated here in these blogs. I am a Christian my faith is not in men and it can’t be changed by men, nor can I change those that do not believe. May God bless America and ALL who live here!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Gpenn

      No one said you couldn't pray. They just aren't inviting any clergy. Big difference and in no way is it impinging on your freedom of religion.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Really???

      Gpenn you are among those who still do not get it. A prayer from clergy is normally offered during memorial services to strengthen the mourners spiritually. 911 is a memorial for the dead, & injured. Clergy were included from the first 911 service onward too . This is the 10 year anniversary of 911; it will be even harder to deal with their tragedy in a landmark year for the families, survivors, & responders. By removing this comfort from those poor bereaved people, it will make it much harder on everyone involved to cope with the loss. Mayor Boomburg has shown no compassion in this attempt at political correctness that does indeed trespass on the families' rights. If anyone can hold a service anytime they choose on the anniversary of a loved one's death with clergy present, but these people cannot? That is denial of religious freedom.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  13. k

    tell these religious freaks to get a job, these religious leaders need to go away

    August 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • All Powerful Wizard of Odd

      You're so smart! Say more words! I especially like your creative use of "these religious" ____________ twice in one sentence! A poet of our time!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Jere Goldsmith

      Mayor Bloomberg has always been sorta a hero to me,but he really "stepped on it" with this decision. The trouble in the world today is we think we have to be "politically correct" on every decision rather than being cultrally correct .Get with it!!!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  14. Charles Stevens

    "there should be clergy and prayer in the 9/11 ceremony to reflect the contribution faith, religion, and spirituality played in the recovery."
    How about reflecting on the contribution faith, religion, and spirituality played in the attacks themselves?

    August 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • JF

      I agree. Religion has done enough. The last thing we need to hear is a "our god is better than your god" prayer at a 9-11 ceremony.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      When was it you have heard such a prayer? The my God is better than your God prayer.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  15. phijef

    Yeah!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  16. Kelly

    Well, obviously god wasn't paying attention on 9/11. Perhaps he was napping or in the john, maybe he even stepped out for a smoke.
    Either way by celebrating what terrorist did to us every year lends credibility to their cause, in their minds at least. Enough is enough, we mourn those that died that day but we don't need a full out ceremony every year.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  17. Dale Wilson

    Religious fanatics caused 9-11. They do not belong in any remembrance ceremony.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Colin

      Agreed, having religion at this event would be like inviting the Ku Klux Klan to a Martin Luther King memorial event.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • logikflux

      @colin, You hit the nail on the head.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Colin is wrong. By saying it would be like inviting the Klan to Martin Luther Kings memorial is to say that all those of Faith are of the same mindset as the terrorist.

      Colin's reasoning would be since a white man killed MLK then it would be wrong for any whites to come to the memorial.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Colin

      Hello Mark, still believe that the World began 6,000 years ago with a man, a woman and a talking snake?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • logikflux

      @Colin, LOL. People lived with the dinosaurs....

      August 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      א  בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ. 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

      Sorry Colin, I am a Christian and if I am correct with the scriptures, I do not think Adam had contact with the snake. Either way my friend this is how my Faith states it begins

      Nice try though, you know at least some parts of the Torah, Bible and Koran 😀

      Tell us, still paranoid that we are coming to get you Atheist?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  18. Bobby

    The US was built on christian principles. Prayer is basic meditation for most folks, regardless of who is doing it. I would hope that all US citizens could close their eyes and meditate, think about the ones lost, and be thankful we are alive. It does not matter what words are being spoken.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Seth

      No, America was not founded on Christian principles. It was founded on Enlightenment principles that were based on a study of classical Greek and Roman culture. Many of the founding fathers were non-Christian Deists (George Washington) non-religious (Alexander Hamilton) or even downright atheist when push came to shove (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson). While there are quotes of those men referring to God – may as well cite me saying, "Bless you" when someone sneezes as a proof of my religion. The only truly devoutly religious founding father I can think of was John Dickenson.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Charles Stevens

      slavery, no rights for women, etc.
      Yep, Christian principles all around!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • AndrewGrayson

      If you are such a believer in an afterlife and the promise of going to heaven why are you soooooooo thankful to be living??? This really puzzles me, especially coming from people who profess such deep faith. If anything, you should be praying for death to take you from this life and into the welcoming loving arms of your creator. Or maybe you're not such a believer after all if your soooo thankful to be staying in this life.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ Bobby, it chaps me that I have to keep repeating this over and over.. The United States was not founded on Christian Principles in any way. Most if not all of the founding fathers were theists, at best. They were rational men who understood that in order for a country to thrive, the country could NOT make the mistakes that many European countries had made during the middle ages, to allow religion into the governance of the country. Read a book, man, simply read up on the writings of some of our founding fathers, and you will find some very interesting things about them.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Patrick FL,

      You see are ignorant.

      And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

      -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 182

      August 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • FlyingSpaghettiMonster

      Seth, you got it right on this.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  19. Colin

    We not only got the stupid god. It is arrogant, demanding of constant adoration and willing to burn those who do nothing more that exercise healthy skepticism, for all eternity.

    It is so obvious to me that we create the gods in our image and not visa-versa.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • All Powerful Wizard of Odd

      I truly pity your simplicity...

      August 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Martin T

      I totally agree, and to the one who pitties your simplicity.. well, the universe favors simplicity, so I'll take that as a compliment.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  20. Pam

    And....the terrorist extremists have won! Congratulations, political correctness.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • logikflux

      You mean religious extremists, which you appear to be one of, just with a different religion. Don't you have an abortion clinic to be bombing or something?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • God's God!

      Pam,
      it is this religion BS that got those towers down and killed all those innocent people. Over a stupid fairytale.
      That garbage do not belong there.

      You can talk to your spaghetti monster some other time.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Charles Stevens

      Apparently your god wasn't strong enough to defeat them.
      "all powerful" indeed!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Martin T

      AT Pam, Ah ignorance wins out again! Sadly, you represent a segment of the population that simply will NEVER GET IT... Sorry

      August 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • God's God!

      I wouldn't say never get it. More like never even willing or may be capable of getting it. Some people don't have the capacity to structure their life without someone [god] telling them how.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ God's God, you are right, if some people were to lose their god, they would have to fill the void with something, because intellect isn't going to do it for them.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • FlyingSpaghettiMonster

      Hey God's God, don't go bashing My holy noodliness or I may spite you.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • logikflux

      Fill the void with drugs,... lots of them

      August 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
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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.