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. Sassan

    Haven't we learned that religion is the main reason why 9/11 happened? This is an event to commemorate all those who died on 9/11, keep your religion to yourself and the moment of silence provided. Stop trying to impose religion upon the rest of society. We are a secular nation.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  2. Marc Benarrous

    Good, praying is what helpless people do when they can't ACTUALLY help.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  3. MarineDad05

    Kneel before Zod...

    August 26, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Marc Benarrous

      thas hillarious. me like.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  4. Robert Klepak

    Fernado Cabrera's position seems quite clear and reflective of many who claim to be "of faith". If Religion (their religion) is not Front & Center and official, rather than silent and or personal, it is being discriminated against, excluded and victimized. One can only woinder what Cabrera's thoughts are on Muslim clerics "officially" being featured in the NYC 9/11 ground zero 10-year commemoration.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  5. Dr Bill Toth

    Grieving is personal.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  6. mydogsays

    Susan Lindauer was a CIA/DIA asset and worked as a liason between the CIA and Iraq during the 1990′s up until after 9/11/2001. She talks about the Bush administration wanting to go to war with Iraq right after they took office. Then she talks about prior knowledge of plans of terrorists flying planes into the World Trade Center. She contacted Senators John McCain and Trent Lott with her knowledge of the attacks and prior knowledge. Within 30 days of doing that she was arrested by the FBI and charged with many felonies under the Patriot Act. She served one year in prison and the government tried very hard to force medicate her but some doctors kept saying she was completely sane/fine. She was released after a year in prison and under indictment for 5 years. She tried to present her story to major news outlets and none of them would touch it. Most of the information she discusses has been confirmed by several other sources including the World Trade Center being rigged with thermate explosives.

    Susan Lindauer discusses the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center, the hijackers, lies leading up to the Iraq war etc. VERY EXPLOSIVE FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE!

    Google the video: This Former CIA Asset Turned Whistle Blower Blows The Lid Off The 9/11 Lies

    August 26, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Ahhhhhh

      That's an amazing work of fiction.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • James

      You are aware that the Patriot Act did not exist prior to Sept 11th? Your story doesn't even make factual sense.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  7. Dave

    Actually, they will both remain in office through the next election cycle precisely because they have improved this country more than most else could.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Dave

      Obama and Bloomberg. I was replying to Joe, below. CNN's comment thingy screwed up. Sorry.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  8. Jen

    9/11 was an event that effected us as a country, not as a religion. Each individual chooses what religion to follow or not. While I am sure that faith was crucial for many in the recovery afterward it was not the uniting factor on that terrible day, being an American was. We are so many different religons and faiths all who pray in different ways it would be impossible to allow every one of them in this ceremony and keep it to a single day. It makes sense to simply leave moments of silence for individuals to pray or contemplate in there own way and keep the ceremony focused on the unifying factor, our nationalism and humanity.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  9. TheWiz

    Look, the national observance for September 11, held in 2001, was at the National Cathedral (Episcopalian) with clergy from various, and no specific, denominations speaking. Hymns were sung and prayers were said. If that could be done easily when the wounds were still immediately fresh, why can't they do something similar here, 10 years later, at the New York observance. Besides, is there going to be a national observance elsewhere, considering the fact that while NY was "Ground Zero" for the attacks, what about those who suffered, died, and who are still suffering the legacy of the attacks in DC and PA?

    August 26, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Dave

      Because we shouldn't even have a national cathedral. Whose idea was that, anyway? Get rid of it, tear it down! I am disgusted we have it.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • TheWiz

      @Dave – It's NOT the "national cathedral" of the United States. It's the National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA). It has, however, informally filled the role of a national place of worship for the nation. But, once again, it is not in any way related to the government of the United States in any formal way.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  10. Beverly

    My honest opinion is.............I don't really care. But that tells you something to why its not allowed or why its not part of the ceremony.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  11. Martin

    So far in my life, I've lost two people very close to me: a parent and my spouse. I'm so glad they didn't die in something like 9/11, that it was my private loss and the loss of those close to them. A lot of these 9/11 survivors have let this consume them and completely take over their lives.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Tarmin

      I'm sorry for your loss, but gladly, I would tell you that most (if not all) of the victim's family and love one's had already moved-on through God's Grace.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  12. logic

    existential questions of "why are we going through this" can be answered by no one but the religious will try and convince you they know anyway


    August 26, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Thorne


      August 26, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  13. Beverly

    Religion cannot be proved or disproved...........so, that is why there is so much controversy on this word"RELIGION" Everyone believes as he or she wishes and an open mind makes the best mind. It always has room for SPACE :).

    August 26, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Martin

      Right, so long as you keep it to yourself, keep it out of official public ceremonies, keep it otr of football games, keep it out of school--GREAT!!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Major Rey T. Wyns

      @ Martin..

      But the fact is, 90%+ of those who attend official public ceremonies; 90%+ of football expectators; 90%+ of those who attend schools; 90%+ US citizens; and 90%+ of Entire world's populace, more likely, share the same, belief.

      That's the hard truth that the rest 10%-, could hardly accept.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  14. Joe

    The US will be a much better place when Obama and Bloomberg are booted from office.

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

      actually – they have improved this country. Leave if you don't like it!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • justsayno

      What does that have to do with this article?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Joe

      We don't have to leave it. We have the right to vote out the leader. Which will happen.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:52 am |

    Hmmm.....although I'm not particularly a believer in organized religion, I cannot help but wonder that during this devastating even, how many people in the building were praying to their God. How many people on the outside, whether or not they knew someone in the buildings or not, were praying to their God. On that fateful morning, I was in Scottsdale, Arizona on the corner of Hayden and Indian School at a gas station putting air in my tire when I heard the news over the radio. Right there and then then, I went to my knees and prayed to God. So, I'm kinda thinking that just maybe......there should be some religious representation at the ceremonies.

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

      Yeah, but which god, which religion, which brand of that religion? We are a SECULAR nation. No official religion, but room for all religions. Get it?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Dave

      I've had 3 events in my life that brought me to the brink between life and death. It could've gone either way for. Not once did I resort to prayer. No deathbed conversion for me. Didn't have time for prayer. I was busy trying to stay alive. I'm willing to bet it's that way for the majority of people in these situations. The survival instinct is a strong one and will push aside all others not necessary to preserving life. Praying to imaginary beings is unnecessary.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:31 am |

      @ Martin: Yes, I agree this is a difficult problem in our country. But, when I see a man of Jewish faith walking around with a yamaka on his head I don't judge him because he's Jewish. When I see Catholic priests and nuns I don't ridicule them for their outfits, I simply accept them for who they are. The Muslim influx is a bit more difficult for me to accept, but I often pray that I have the ability to accept them as much as I accept other religions, or concpets of relgions such as Atheism, and Agnosticism.. Now, am I praying to God, or am I merely reciting these thoughts to my consciousness, I do not know the answer to that. The same holds true for Agnostics and Athiesists.

      @ Dave: I'm sorry you've had some bad illness in your life. And I'm glad you've made it through it. But I know if I was facing significant life threatening events, I'd be saying a few prayers, just in case.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • tallulah13

      There is a religious presence there, Rockwood. The entire reason that there is a memorial at all is because of fanatical religion. In this place where people of many religions died, perhaps it would be better to concentrate on our common humanity instead of our religious difference.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Thorne

      I'm glad to see you are honest about it ROCKWOOD, but I think this comment –
      "The Muslim influx is a bit more difficult for me to accept, but I often pray that I have the ability to accept them as much as I accept other religions, or concpets of relgions such as Atheism, and Agnosticism.."
      is exactly the reason WHY there can not be a religious leader presence at the memorial. Innocent Muslims were killed on 9/11 too.
      I am a religious person myself, but my faith is very personal and I don't need it trotted out onto the world stage so it can be validated or not. I personally have zero issue with anyone's faith or lack there of.

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

    A movement is emerging, saying: Let us abolish all religions, it were the religions, which caused so much trouble for the mankind. Let us simply be human beings without any religion and everything will go on well.

    I don't know, which lousy individuals represent this movement (I mean, I don't know the arch-liars of this movement), but one thing is clear, they make a big mistake.

    Man is not good in himself (the reality proves it, the Bible confirms it).

    Look at the German Nazis, which were about to abolish Christianity in Germany. They, of course, did not say there had been no Jesus, but tried to establish a Germanic Jesus (they wanted Jesus to be a proud, violent ruler). Although they would have never admitted that they want to abolish Christianity, they did it, because they replaced the true Jesus by Satan and called Satan Jesus. Very simple. Millions of guiltless people were slain by Hitler and his fellows, although they had in fact no religion (in fact, the Nazis were the predecessors of the Beast, but not yet the Beast itself).

    Look at Russia and the communists. They were somewhat more brutal than the Nazis. They did not try to establish a false Jesus, but simply said, there is no God at all. They were strict atheists. Millions of guiltless people were slain by Stalin and his fellows, although they had no religion at all.

    What about the atheists of China. How many guiltless people did they kill?

    It is clear that man without any faith in God, behaves very brutal. The human depravity gets fully revealed, if there is no faith.

    At 9/11 about 3000 guiltless people were murdered by model Muslims, i. e. members of Al-Quaida. Are we actually aware that an Al-Quaida fighter is a model Muslim, according to Muhammad's doctrine? There is no greater merit for a Muslim than to slay Christians and Jews. Sorry, that is the pure Islamic doctrine.

    You want to get into heaven? Just kill Jews and Christians. Allah will let you dwell in a cool garden with nice girls for ever.

    However, the Beast-religion will have a worse God than Allah: A man (much worse than Hitler or Stalin and even more intelligent), following his basest instincts, an arch-malefactor, an arch-barbarian.

    Come under the screen of Jesus. He is Lord-God (Kyrios). He himself will finally kill the Beast.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Joe

      Well said!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • R

      You – are DELUSIONAL. A whacko

      August 26, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Dave

      What a pack of lies. You, my friend, are the biggest liar of the bunch. How can you stand there and shovel that load of unverified horse manure? Everything you said was wrong. You need to go and take a course in world history and this time stay awake!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • N C

      Crazy talk ^

      Separation of church and state. If for some misguided reason religion is allowed a formal place at the anniversary event, then ALL religions should be allowed equal respect and time ... including that of Islam, Muslims, and any pagan religion.

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

      Agreed, N.C.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Bill

      Thanks Satan.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Thorne

      The Bible can confirm NOTHING to non-believers and you can not force people to be believers. Also, the Bible has largely been proven to be just what it is, a book written by some old white guys who remembered history their way regardless of what was going on for other people and other groups. Then you throw a little mysticism on top of it and you have got yourself a best seller.
      Your lies and mis-truths are just another form of fanatical religion, whatever guise you wrap it in.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  17. Dave

    This whole mess was started because of religion. Religion should stay the he!! out of it. Man! Don't you p[people get it? Religion causes war and bloodshed. People die over religion. We don't need it anymore. Wake up and smell the enlightenment.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:25 am |

      I think you are onto something here.....I do believe in God myself, but more in a collective consciousness type of way. I guess if I were to try and put my faith in a niche, it would be more along Buddhism. These religions are developed by men, who are supposedly inspired by their 'god.' This is where I think the inherent problem is with religion.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Martin

      Agree. And so would the Founding Fathers.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Dave

      Rock on, gentlemen!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Kindness

      Dave, the one true religion does not cause war and hatred.....you need to do your research because there is that one out there.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Dave

      What "true religion". You been watching too many re-runs of Caprica. That was a discontinued T.V. series on SyFy. It was fantasy/fiction, and so is all religion. I admit to not enough knowledge as to the existence of god. But, the evidence is certainly lacking. But, religion, on the other hand, could easily disappear and we'd be much better off for it. I mean ALL religion.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Paul

      Simply and effectively stated. Dropping numbers in participation and dollars should be a sign. This circus is about to leave town.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • 2tor

      Just totally preposterous. Men cause wars over disagreements and greed. I'm so sick of simple minded people trying to be all inclusive by blaming wars on religion. It's just asinine!

      August 26, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Objecttothis

      Interesting thought Dave, but Stalin proves you wrong. He killed millions with the same argument you're using. Mao anyone? Your premise is that religion is causing the problem but that's not correct. While those people claimed to be motivated one way, it was clearly the sin of man that drove them to kill just as much as your sin drives you. Enllightenment does nothing to address the problem except to pretend it isn't there by saying there is no right and wrong.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Shawn

      Well said, Dave. If we'd all stop fighting over religion, then for the most part, we'd all stop fighting. Other than religion, the human race's major conflicts were over land and resources – mainly food. With pretty much all the land accounted for, and the ability to feed ourselves not really an issue, religion is left as the number one cause of world conflict. Their religion didn't like our religion and a lot of people died. Leave it out. And as a side note – how much time can they dedicate to this ceremony anyway? If they include religious figures, how do you decide who to include? You can't just have Christianity and Judiaism, the predominant religions. You have to include everyone, Taoist, Shinto, Buddhist, Hindu, etc., and yes – even Muslim leaders in the ceremony. There were people from all over the world in those buildings. The people complaining about the decision don't want religion int he ceremony – they want Their Religion.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Kindness

      Clearly, not all worship is approved by God or his Son. Thus, not all worship is true worship. Does this mean that only one religion teaches the truth? Could not God be working through a number of religions, while rejecting certain others? Or, for that matter, might God be accepting and rejecting the worship of individuals scattered about in a number of religions despite what their organizations teach?

      The apostle Paul wrote under divine inspiration: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) The Bible also exhorts Christians to be “of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind.”—Philippians 2:2.

      Where such unity exists, the result is, in fact, one religion. Accordingly, the Bible says that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”—Ephesians 4:4, 5.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  18. James

    I'm very happy to see the human race evolve. No need to listen to pedophiles lecture me or even innocent priests lecture me as if they are holier than thou and know something the rest of us don't. Religion is for the weak and those with lesser IQ's. The only truth is that you do not know if there is a god or a heaven or hell and you should not be arrogant or ignorant enough to proclaim that there is or is not one. Period. If the "Holy Catholic Church" sold even a painting in the Sistine Chapel or room of maps they could solve poverty in Africa for year.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  19. rizzo

    who makes these decsions anyway

    August 26, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  20. Mark

    Maybe it is time to do it the way the Soviet Union did – drive religion underground. Get it out of the public life. Shutter all the churches. No reason to have faith in anything. Look how well it worked for them.

    August 26, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • us1776

      The problems that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union had nothing at all to do with the ban against "Invisible Being" cults aka religion.

      The problems were caused by corruption, inefficiencies and syphoning off of huge amounts of money by people at the top of government.


      August 26, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Dave

      In other words, the same things that are causing problems in the U.S. are what killed off the Soviet Union. Any questions?

      August 26, 2011 at 8:27 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.