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. JA

    After 9/11, the nation came together, advertising signs "united we stand divided we fall" and even "In God We Trust" . It was everywhere. I was glad to see our nation actually come together for once dispite any difference. What is really sad is that now, ten years later, we are back to where we were before. Even worse i would say. Im sure they will at least have a moment of silence for the lives lost. I guess that's good enough.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Brooke

      Read the article much???? It says there will be SIX moments of silence during the ceremony for people to pray or reflect as they wish. That should be more than sufficient.

      August 27, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  2. dick

    they wont invite clergy or first responders but they will have bush sr and jr that had an active hand in the murders this is disgusting beyond words

    August 26, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Yes, you're a dick

      I think your tin foil hat is a little tight.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  3. MoonScar

    I see the athiests are still up from last night and pushing their religion on all of us

    August 26, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Jeffery

      Better to have NO religion pushed on us then the usual politics of division and hatred most religions preach and practice.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • jimtanker

      You sure are self important aren't you? Not everyone lives in your time zone. Some of us in fact are in the Middle East where it is 3pm here.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • JP

      Actually I just got up. 🙂 And we have as much right as the Baptist evangelical who tells the world that Christ died on the cross for your sins to say it's all made up and that God just doesn't exist.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @MoonScar you said:
      "I see the athiests are still up from last night and pushing their religion on all of us"

      What religion would that be? If you call living by evidence and in reality a religion, than I guess we are religious but at least our 'religion' has a basis in real life and what can be evidenced to be true, unlike the belief in a 'god' that can't be proven and makes no sense (if this were a real man, he'd be in jail for all the damage he has done to this world).

      August 26, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  4. Reality

    "I'm telling you I saw it first hand, the power of prayer," – so says Fernado Cabrera a New York City councilman and the pastor of New Life Outreach International church in the Bronx.

    What??? If prayer is so powerful, 3000 human beings would still be alive today!!!

    Some rationality for posting on your refrigerator doors:




    Added details upon request.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Jsfraptor26

      Think what you wish, darkness does not comprehend the light. Never has, never will.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Amenhotepstein

      Seven-up has no caffeine. Never has, never will.

      There! Equally profound!

      August 26, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  5. Ben

    So, we cant have Mullahs rightly because it would cause a justified outcry and for that reason, we ban all clergy. Don't worry, you don't need to cling to God, the Government will provide all you need...

    August 26, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  6. Big Rik

    So for all of you who are cheering the banning of religious leaders (screw that first amendment anyway) what is the justification for banning the First Responders?

    August 26, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • MrBlack

      So, people that weren't invited to participate in the ceremony are banned now? I wasn't invited to participate. Am I banned, too?

      Nobody was banned from the ceremony, they just weren't invited to be part of whatever ceremony they're having. Probably has to do with not wanting to sit there for 16 hours while a representative from each religion pontificates on things we'll never know (it's only fair if each faith is represented).

      August 26, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • baldev

      No religion nor any denomination has any right whatsoever to be included in any public event. BUT please keep out any and all 9-11 Islamic fundamentalist. I have yet to meet 1 muslim who does not use the word BUT after saying " this calamity by Islamic terrorist was/is wrong" but.................

      August 26, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  7. Mike

    Good for Bloomy!

    I don't generally agree with him on much, but this time he got it right. There is no need for religious "leaders" to get a chance to preach (which is basically what a public prayer is) about their imaginary sky father... They are free to pray in silence all they want or aloud in private or amongst their own sheep.

    And even for the believer, it's funny how they ignore their own prophet's guidance... After all, Matthew 6:6 clearly states what Jesus said about prayer..."When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

    Public prayer is really just a way for the pious to show off their piety!

    August 26, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Jsfraptor26

      Jesus said that in regard to the Pharisees who were big into false religiosity for personal gain in the traditional Jewish culture. The Pharisees prayed loudly in public to appear religious, sat at the best place in weddings etc all for personal motivation / gain. That whole context has nothing to do with this 9/11 thing – noone is praying for personal gain/public standing, but rather to promote spiritual healing.

      As usual, a non-believer quoting Scripture completely out of context to support his/her secular view. The Scripture also says God will hold every word accountable that man utters toward his heart's motivation/intent. Watch yourself.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Craig

      Jesus, no one cares what is says in the bible. Quote it all you want, in context, out of context, it means nothing really.
      Just a collection of words, if they have meaning to you, then by all means read away, but please don't act like those words are divine or are anything other than words. Plenty of books with more consistent morality than the bible.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Mike


      Most of these religious leaders who are raising a fuss about this would likely have been clearly classified as pharisees by the Jesus described in your bible. The point of the text is that you (everyone, not just pharisees) should keep your prayers between you and god. The rest of the community has no need to know.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  8. wendy5

    the governemnt needs to get over 9/11 they keep it alive to scare people and to increase their police state; what are the going to make it a national holiday what a joke; mean while we have 20million illeagal in house and they let them go so we can pay for them; frankly im tired of hearing about 9/11 reliving it year after year; it was sad yes and you destabilized the whole world because of it when does it stop; maybe when the mosque opens next door; if there is no prays ect then its nothing more then a gov pr campaign nothing more to justify why we are loosing our rights

    August 26, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Beth

      Get over 9/11? Are you serious? Tell that to the families of the victims. This country (including the government) will never "get over" 9/11 nor should they have to.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    Islam – no, thank you!

    For centuries the mankind was tortured by the wh-ore (Roman Catholic Church, RCC), which now declines and the Islam (invented by the lousy criminal Muhammad). Now, things reach a new quality. Obviously, the Beast (a community of states, which are absolutely profane or godless) is about to seize rule. That is a calamity, but predicted in the Revelation (a book of the Holy Bible).

    Regarding all the Islamic suicide bombers, I find it necessary to give the Islam another kick, although he will get displaced by the Beast anyway, like the RCC. I am not a friend of the Beast, because the Beast will treat us surely worse than RCC and Islam have ever done.

    Islam, in a word, means 9/11. It is fully justified, when you call Islam the 9/11-belief. The history of the spread of Islam is a history of bloody Muslim conquests. Look at today Istanbul (former Konstantinopel). This city was Christian for about 1000 years!!! Than (1453 a. D.) it was captured by the Muslim Turks (according to the historian Steven Runciman the Turks slayed a lot of civilians, after they had captured the city). Konstantinopel had been the center of Christianity for a long time. In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church the Greek Church of Konstantinopel was a real Christian Church (not mererly nominal Christian), Luther said.

    Imagine an insane Mexican prophet, called Muxammad, would unite all Mexican gangs for a war against New York and would indeed capture it. I think, the whole world would get shocked and would mourn.

    What the Turkish disciples of Muhammad did with Konstantinopel, was much worse, than this would be. Konstantinopel was the Queen of the cities. It was a the leading center of culture of the ancient world. The Emperors of Konstantinopel promoted and protected the Christian Church (Greek Church) for centuries.

    My claims:

    Shutdown of all mosques in the USA and Europe.

    Banishment of all Imams.

    Banishment of Muslim organizations.

    Muslims should not be allowed to work within the army, police or other official agencies.

    Note: Single Muslim fellow citizens should not be harmed in any way, but have all rights and duties. It is only about preventing them from seizing influence and power.

    Islam means bloodshed, terror, despotism, etc.. History has proven it. The Koran confirms it.

    Off with you, wicked Islam!

    Despite my criticism of the Islamic doctrine, I speak for loving the ordinary Muslims (fellow citizens). Jesus said, we shall love our enemies.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • john

      This is why we can not have religion!......all you people are mentally ill!.....

      August 26, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • Craig

      Amen John, Amen

      August 26, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • JP

      Your claims that Islam is completely contrived barbaric garbage holds much truth. Same applies to Christianity and Judaism.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  10. Brian

    Thank goodness that someone in New York realized that not everyone that died in the events in 9/11 was Christian. If Christians want to pray for the victims, then by all means they should, but it should not be official either.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  11. volksmaniac

    This will be a dog and pony show . How about we don't invite any politicians , then how big of deal would it be ?" Only those who were there and had some influence ." would seem to exclude Obama . Another attempt to nullify religion . If this were about anything BUT politics , then it might have some significance . As it stands , it's just a dog and pony show . Another great photo-op .

    August 26, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  12. steelerguin

    We are slipping further into the abyss as a godless nation. So sad.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • JP

      You're just nostalgic for a time when people got their philosophies indoctrinated into them from their families rather than thought out for themselves. So sad

      August 26, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails


      "We are slipping further into the abyss as a godless nation. So sad."

      About time!! Once again the USA is not a christian nation and the sooner people realize that the better off the country will be.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  13. JustKidding

    No clergy or formal prayers?!? Why... that makes me so mad I'm going to get a group of guys together, send them to flight school... ah, nevermind.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  14. Niclyn

    "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."
    Well, I for one never said, "Why us?" Intelligence and awareness of the world around you answers that question. "How are we going to make it through" The same way I make it through everything else, step by step, day by day.

    If God was so powerful, he would have put his energy into stopping those planes, not into comforting me after it happened.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  15. John Richardson

    Glad to hear that the clergy for once can't elbow their way to the front of the line.

    August 26, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • TC

      II applaud Mayor Bloomberg's wise decision

      August 26, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • PB


      Isn't it amazing... people see religion coming out of the tradegy. They pray for the deceased which is fine, they pray that they go to heaven which is fine, they continue prayin now....

      Problem is:

      What did the people see going into the the WTC, the terrorist had religion on their minds going into the towers. Their last words were "God is Great".... correct?

      See a problem...

      Keep it secular...and politician free.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  16. Anita

    If there is a way to create a controversy out of nothing, Americans will find it. Manhattan is a small island and "ground zero" is a small patch of land on a small island. Decisions have to be made about how many and which people can be accomodated safely and respectfully on this spot. It can not just be opened up to everyone who thinks they want or deserve to be there in person. The program for the day is somber, serious, respectful and focussed. One does not have to be there in person to participate in spirit. Personally, I think this should be the last yearly large formal commemoration. One of America's strengths has always been an ability to look forward. We seem to have lost that and are constantly looking back. We can remember and honor our past without turning it into a Hollywood production every year for – how long?

    August 26, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • PR

      I agree!

      August 26, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  17. Liutgard

    The first responders have been publicly not invited. And now the clergy. So who the h3ll *will* be there?

    August 26, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  18. Goodness Gracious

    What a fantastic decision! Wise, caring, and goodness knows this day is going to be full of prayer. It is a day to open our hearts and come together. Grateful that this day is 10 years past and strong in the conviction that "United we stand, Divided we fall." Restoring our courage and confidence and faith in the future and everything that is good will continue to cure us of that day. Sometimes I think all the crazy divisiveness and politics is our culture just acting out its triggered fears from this day. We can calm it down,let go of fears of "the other" and get focused on what we can create that is beautiful, lifegiving and just gives our kids a sense of possibility and excitement. The world is good and goodness has to get stronger and a better PR campaign. Please God and all the angels help protect us from our own fears and fear mongering groups and media. Help us to stay focused on all our potential for good to cultivate. Help us to resist the easy road of despair and the arguments for doom and to be strong with hope, optimism and courage for our future. We know that ultimately we are all one.

    August 26, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  19. TruthPrevails

    If we set aside all religion and get to the basis here we might find that no matter what you believe these attacks happened and not only impacted the USA but the world as a whole. No conspiracy theories required (no, Bush did not cause this issue...some of his actions might have had part in) and no-one to blame but the people who ordered the attacks and in turn followed through.
    What we as a world need to remember is that innocent lives were lost and innocent lives were impacted that day. It was a ruthless act of violence with the worst outcome possible. Not one of us (unless we were too young to recall) will ever forget where we were or what we were doing on the day(s) thereafter. As horrible as this tragedy is, it should be an indication that world peace and a world without a division in beliefs or lack there-of is required if we ever hope to prevent another such attack. Once we learn to set aside beliefs, we will finally be set free.

    August 26, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  20. Sardukar

    That article made my day...NYC rulez.

    August 26, 2011 at 6:37 am |
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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.