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. Great News

    The religious nuts complaining on here need to have some respect for those of us that don't believe in fairy tales. It's a proven fact your kind has a lower IQ on average compared to rational thinkers.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • illuminati

      The fairy tale is due to the bigoted antireligious nuts who want to prevent the pratice of religion.
      God does not recognize athiests.
      Your puny brain cannot grasp the concept of God.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Chris

      Theres a difference between practicing religion....and shouting prayers through a loud speaker for EVERYONE to hear. Why not include NOTHING RELIGIOUS, and that will suite EVERYONE. Keep your religion to YOURSELF.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Chris

      BTW our puny brain....has invented and continued to make YOUR life better for the last 1500+ years. "How was the universe created" You...GOD DID IT Us......Its a more complicated then that and at the time we cant say with certainty. There are however many theories on this. Who sounds more intelligent?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • buck

      God lets 3000 people die in the WTC. But he loves you.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  2. NoDems

    Wake up New York, Bloomberg is taking you down the road to hell. He is marxist, fascist, un-American, pig, puke and so on. Do your studies on Agenda 21 and see where this your loser mayor fits in.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Frank

      If you think Bloomberg is a Marxist then I think you don't have a clue as to what a Marxist truly is. But, isn't it fun to spout nonsense?!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Chris

      Another ameri'tard using terms that dont fit the subject matter. Keep using the words Marxist, Communist, and Socialist out of contact, your REALLY HELPING THE REST OF AMERICA

      August 26, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  3. Beverly

    JiminTX..........AMEN TO THAT, 🙂

    August 26, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  4. Xerxes

    The clergy are complaining that they're not being invited. Are they going to allow the Imams from the mosque being built down the street from where the Twin Towers stood? No? Hmmm ... OK, so it's only a problem that Judeo-Christian clergy won't be there ...

    August 26, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  5. Marci

    Prayer comes from the heart and nothing can prevent that as we remember our fallen loved ones.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Beverly

      Very nicely said...........Marci 🙂

      August 26, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • JohnR

      Which is precisely why garish, public displays of religiosity have nothing to do with true spirituality.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  6. Frank

    Why should clergy be involved??? I didn't see any ministers or rabbis running into the Twin Towers to save people! Where was the clergy on 9/11? Not at the World Trade Center. Nope, they were probably sitting on the potty pooping.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Water St

      I guess someone missed the famous picture of a dead Catholic Priest being carried away from ground zero on 9/11.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Frank Sausage

      No such photo exists. If so, was he pooping on the potty?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  7. John

    Who cares if you don't believe in God. I don't believe in gays but as a human on this planet you need to tolerate idiots. Liberals want to shut up Christians and let Muslims do what ever they want. Are the Baptist hated or liked? Do we let people protest and burn the American Flag, but ban the Pledge of Allegiance in schools? Why is it that within a generation people reject God when our society was built on the belief of God. Maybe the people who don't believe should show tolerance.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Frank

      You don't believe in gays? Well then smarty pants, who makes sunshine?

      Just for you, I'm going to burn a flag AND a Bible while saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • James

      Since when did people choosing to be gay become a belief and not an action? Do yourself a favor and don't speak.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Frank Sausage

      Maybe John is one of those self-haters, like Ted Haggard and Larry Craig.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Thorne

      @ John
      "what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. " Or may the FSM have mercy on your inner meatball, whatever blows your skirt up.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  8. citizenUSA

    I imagine that most people, whether or not they believe in any religion or not, would expect that there would be a representative from every denomination just as there was a representation of (nearly) every religion, (even atheism), of the people who died on 9/11.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  9. tony

    911 ceremony...why...it was clearly an inside job perpetrated on the public by the government....that is what this ceremony should be...an investigation into what REALLY HAPPENED.

    How dare they conduct a ceremony without the proper ivestigation.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Beverly

      Amen to that..............I could not agree with you on this matter. This is 10 years later, how many have died since then or the people who was to testify that are no longer with us. Come on, we are waiting for an answer

      August 26, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Beverly

      meaning............i can not agree with you more on your comment.:) I totally agree and it makes you wonder, don't it?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  10. Becca

    Michael Bloomberg is an idiot anyway, so I can't say I'm surprised by this, but it infuriates me! The families wishes should be honored and not some political agenda. All of you who do not believe in God, don't be surprised by all you see happening in the world today. Your lack of belief and our kicking God out of this country is not going to save anyone. We are in the end times and more and more is happening. If you had any sense, you would be crying out to our God and begging him for mercy. The system of the antichrist is on the rise in this nation. I agree with that guy that no mosques should be allowed in our country, let them all go back to their own land and leave us alone!

    August 26, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • arguethefacts

      Did you read the article? Mayor Bloomberg made the decision in conjunction with the families. Family members will be involved and reading quotes, poems, etc. to honor their fallen relatives.

      And, you do realize that a lot of Muslims died in the office building's don't you. Everyone who wants religious representation seem to only want Christian representation. How much would these Christians be howling if a Mullah was included to speak to represent the Muslims who died? They don't even want a mosque several blocks away. Imagine if it were announced a Muslim would also give prayer.

      And would the Christians demand that Atheists be left out? There were atheist in the building, too. What about Buddhist, Shintu, Hindu, etc. Should they be up there too giving their speeches.

      I think Mayor Bloomberg has made the right choice. Because which religion would be represented: Catholics, Christians (hundreds of different Christian faiths of those who died, including some pretty extreme), Jewish (Orthodox? Other types)?

      These Christian ministers just want to hog the spotlight away from the families. It's not their (the clergy's) memorial. it belongs to the families and they seem to have reached an agreement.

      When you start adding some religions you start excluding others, even those who do not believe in a higher power.

      Mayor Bloomberg is correct.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Thorne

      Becca hon... you may want to up your Zoloft intake.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  11. Beverly

    Prayer always bring controversy. It does not bring together people who are not willing to have it as a part of their lives. You would be surprised at who does bring prayer into their lives and its normally older people.....and I think prayer will defeat what 911 is all about. It sure is not about god, its about a cover-up that the people NY will never know or us people. Maybe, about 100 years the truth will come out of the closet and it will be like us in the way we feel about the civil war that is way behind us..........its the past.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  12. KathyM

    Not allowing clergy or prayers is totally wrong! NYC should be ashamed of themselves. The clergy & prayer should be allowed and welcomed for all that believe. It was prayer that got us through this horrible time and I'm sure the men & women of the NYC FD will be praying for the clergy they lost that day.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  13. JiminTX

    Fairy tales, make believe, and childish myths have no place in modern, western civilization. Kudos to Bloomberg.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • NoDems

      Wow, just wow.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  14. humtake

    EVERYONE has a problem with not being there. Soon we are going to start seeing articles about some Cambodian tribeswoman who is complaining there aren't enough Cambodian tribespeople there. Then we will hear from the Klingons saying they are mad there won't be any Klingons there.

    Get over it. If you are invited, great. If not...guess what, there are 364 other days of the year you can plan something.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Beverly

      I totally agree ......if you need god as a part of 911, then plan it another day. Its not like this day is the only day..........and if your not wanted so be it. It won't be the last time or will it ever be.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  15. Res Publica

    I commend The Mayor's decision and see him as a champion of Separation between Church and State.

    They're having moments of silence, yes? Pray, if you chose, to whatever god you believe in, during this moment. You don't need a religious clergy member in order to pray. Do you have one in your house before you go to sleep?

    People of many religions died that day. No single religion ever merits preference over another in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Our Republic will honor and allow you to practice your religion to your heart's content! The Republic, however, will not allow ONE religion favoritism. This event isn't a bloody moment of religious advertisement.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • DR Patrick

      This country was founded on Christian principles, In God we Trust.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Stevie7

      @DR Patrick – I didn't realize that the USA was founded in the mid 1950s

      August 26, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • SHRIKE

      "'In God We Trust.' I don't believe it would sound any better if it were true." Samuel Clemens

      August 26, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Matt IN

      "In God We Trust" was not until 1956, far from the founding of the country.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • buck


      August 26, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Stevie7

      Perhaps DR Patrick was really referring to our founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson. You know, that same Thomas Jefferson who rewrote the New Testament to take out all of the hocus pocus and condense it down to some 40 or so pages.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  16. Doug

    I don't think there's a problem with prayer. More people believe than don't. The problem is, you can't keep it non-denominational and I do believe religious leaders would try to find a way to make it a message rather than a simple prayer. It's too bad that we've come to this but I think the Mayor did the right thing. Also, during the moments of silence, as it says in the article, you can say a prayer. You don't need a Minister, Imam, Rabbi etc... to say a prayer.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  17. marn7271

    Not Political ceremony ! Former Presidents and current President are going to be there and you say not political ! Also note that the facebook page or link was left out of this article. Doesn't matter. God will be there anyway. He doesn't need an invitation !

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

      God? Your invisible sky friend who grants wishes? Silly child grow up and join modernity.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Wondering845

      God will be at the ceremony? And he will explain why he watched the misery of that day?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • GH

      JiminTX....Explain how do you know that there is no GOD? If people want to believe in something then let them it is people like yourself that create more problems then what you are worth, which is not much. People like yourself keep demanding that religion be taken out of everything, well moron read your fact based history on this country and you will see why religion is an important part of this country, no matter what it may be. You sir are a moron

      August 26, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Stevie7

      @GH – explain how you know there is no Zeus.

      Religion has been a large part of this country, but it would e disrespectful if only a subset of clergy were asked to pray, and there would probably be an uproar from intolerant bigots if imams were invited to pray for those Americans of the muslim faith who were murdered that day. You can pray anyway that you like – why is it oh so important to you that the prayer be led by the government.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:24 am |

    The Mayor's office has apparently already forgotten Father Mychal Judge. This Franciscan was the Chaplain of the FDNY, and perished at the World Trade center while attempting to give last rites to the victims of the tragedy. At least the Fire Department has not forgotten him, and will have a memorial ceremony at St. Francis of Assisi Church on September 4.

    This is as much a religious ceremony as it is political. The thousands that died in those towers, Shanksville, Pa, the pentagon, and the aircraft represented practically every religion on the face of the earth. Not to have leaders of each participating religion would leave a gaping hole in the whole ceremony.

    Allow a Catholic priest (a Franciscan from St. Francis), a pastor from each Christian denomination, a Jewish rabbi, an Imam (many of the victims at the WTC were Muslims), and others at least lead in a short prayer.

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

      How many denominations would that be? Are we going to have a ceremony with 200 pastors to make sure we've got all our bases covered?

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

      How about the Satanist, Wiccans, Buddist, and the Pagans?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  19. Warhawk

    I don't believe in God. I believe God was invented by people. But for those militant atheists who advocate banning religion from public lives – you're nothing more than the fundamentalist believers in no God – just as dangerous as the people who brought to us Inquisition, 9/11, and Holocaust. You have to understand that it doesn't matter what someone believes in, as long as it is for the good for the people. If religion brings hope to people – it's great, if it brings misery – find out why and fix it, but don't show your inability to lead by banning religious presence at a memorial only because you don't feel like dealing with controversy, or even a hint thereof. Bloomberg – sad move for a man whose hart and soul resides in the vaults of Wall Street.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • buck

      Who has killed in the name of Atheism?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  20. Bernard

    The most religious people on 9/11 were the ones piloting the aircraft. The memorial is appropriately secular as a contrast to those villains.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • JP


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


      August 26, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • buck

      so true.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • SHRIKE

      terribly true

      August 26, 2011 at 8:57 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.