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. Bill Nieporte

    Bill Nieporte here. I notice your connection to members of the Nieporte clan. I grew up with a step-father and have had little connection with Nieprotes and have never met my biological father. Anyways, trying to build connections and I invite you to visit my blog.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  2. Pastor Bill Nieporte

    Hello Pastor/Clergy – My name is Bill Nieporte, a pastor in Richmond, VA. I hve been searching the web for website/blogs similar to my own clergy blog. I am looking to exchange articles, essays, sermons, studies, and links. I would love it if you could take a visit to http://nieporte.name and get back with me to exchange backlinks. Feel free to included links to any info on my site. And if you have a blog post you think would be good for your site, please send me the link at billnieporte@pastor.com. I am a real person- with a real site.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  3. angel

    dont fight if someone wants to pray they will pray in and from their hearts!! if you dont want to pray fine, if you do go for it! should not be anything of a big deal here-to each his own i say–

    September 17, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  4. Kris

    And yet after all the fuss it was no big deal and the ceremony went on as planned

    September 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  5. Jack

    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
    2 Chronicles 7:14 Leave GOD out and we are the losers, not GOD because he owns it all anyway. The organisers should be ashamed of themselves.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • BrooklynMan

      this whole thing happened because of what someone thought their god wanted. to me, he's the last one who should get an invitation.

      September 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  6. LinCA

    Late breaking news!

    There has been a change of plans. In light of the considerable number of requests to include prayer at the commemoration, the organization has decided to include one prayer.

    All parties that were interested in leading the crowd in prayer were asked to submit a request. From all entries, one was chosen at random. It was determined that the Imam will lead the crowd in Islamic prayer.

    Everyone is expected to participate.

    September 11, 2011 at 2:20 am |
  7. Sting

    You've GOT to be kidding me. I'm as good as speakless. Pray for Obama... Psalms 109:8.

    September 11, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Nelson

      Pretty sure praying for the death of someone goes against everything your religion teaches you....

      September 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  8. louis

    Historically and Biblical, it is recorded and significant that when a people or a nation forsake God; in compromise; they forsake His love and His presence. This is nothing less than rebellion from the commandments of God expressed in Deuteronomy 8. It's funny how we will call upon Him in the time when we find ourselves helpless and uncovered, yet we blatantly dismiss Him with overtones of political rhetoric and socialistic compromise. 2Chronicles 7:14 clearly defines the condition of a people who would dare to worship God continually and yes consistently. oh, how we can make such manipulative and sedating excuses why we cannot allow God in! I pray God has mercy on us and our leaders in the ignorance of their own wisdom in pleasing men rather than God, the Creator of man and universe!

    September 11, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • BrooklynMan

      Historically, no such thing has ever happened (show me some proof, please), which makes it a perfect fit for the bible, which is not history but myth with a little bit of mostly inaccurate history peppered in (according to pretty much every academically-reputable historian).

      so, when you speak of ignorance, speak not of that of others but instead your own.

      September 12, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
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.