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. Steve

    Religious representation at the 9/11 memorial would be like having a murderer's accomplice giving the eulogy at the victims funeral.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  2. WE are all ATHEISTS

    There are over 200 recognized deities (God, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, etc) in the world but most people only believe in 1 out of the 200+ gods. So people who call themselves atheists are really not much different than everyone else, they just believe in ONE LESS god than believers. So atheists are 100% non-believers in deities and most Americans are 99.9% non-believers. So really we have more in common than not!!!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Phil

      I think you need to check your word definitions. Check a dictionary.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Crazytown

      Phil the point that he was making is that you are as skeptical of other religions as atheists are of all religions. You don't believe in 99.9% of religions out there and atheists don't believe in 100% of religions. So you're different in degree but not that much. Next time read the comment and think a little before the knee-jerk comment.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Phil

      I understand what he was trying to say but he misused the word "atheist." Atheism does not relate to a religion. It relates to a deity. Big difference.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  3. Face the Truth

    THERE IS NO GOD. The sooner you all accept this fact and move on the better off you will be.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  4. Phil

    Possibly a good idea to not have clergy. Otherwise, some imam would insist on appearing as well, which would almost certainly cause a great deal of unnecessary irritation. No clergy, no such problem.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  5. Tom

    As The Road Dog said... Oh you didn't KNOW,, You better call SOMEBODY.... I wonder who is going to be there? You can remove the Clergy,, But you can't Remove ELOHIM......Genesis 1:1, Psalm 19:1
    meaning "God", a reference to God's power and might.
    ADONAI......Malachi 1:6
    meaning "Lord", a reference to the Lordship of God.
    JEHOVAH–YAHWEH.....Genesis 2:4
    a reference to God's divine salvation.
    JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM.......Exodus 31:13
    meaning "The Lord thy sanctifier"
    JEHOVAH-ROHI......Psalm 23:1
    meaning "The Lord my shepherd"
    JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH.......Ezekiel 48:35
    meaning "The Lord who is present"
    JEHOVAH-RAPHA.........Exodus 15:26
    meaning "The Lord our healer"
    JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU......Jeremiah 23:6
    meaning "The Lord our righteousness"
    JEHOVAH-JIREH.........Genesis 22:13-14
    meaning "The Lord will provide"
    JEHOVAH-NISSI.........Exodus 17:15
    meaning "The Lord our banner"
    JEHOVAH-SHALOM........Judges 6:24
    meaning "The Lord is peace"
    JEHOVAH-SABBAOTH......Isaiah 6:1-3
    meaning "The Lord of Hosts"
    JEHOVAH-GMOLAH........Jeremiah 51:6
    meaning "The God of Recompense"
    EL-ELYON..............Genesis 14:17-20,Isaiah 14:13-14
    meaning "The most high God
    EL-ROI................Genesis 16:13
    meaning "The strong one who sees"
    EL-SHADDAI............Genesis 17:1,Psalm 91:1
    meaning "The God of the mountains or God Almighty"
    EL-OLAM...............Isaiah 40:28-31
    meaning "The everlasting God"
    So have your little meeting. And yes he is watching....

    August 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • logikflux

      You are clearly insane.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Bob

      I thought you agreed to take your medications as part of your treatment program.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Crazytown

      Perfect example of how religion pushes one away from reality/sanity and into a fantasy realm. Ever wonder why there are so many crazy people shouting on the streets/subways about the "rapture" and "accept jesus or burn in hell", etc. . You never see crazy people on the subway ranting about natural selection and astronomy.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Answer

      A God of creation that created the earth (according to most religions around 10,000 years?) and equally as quick as to rend it the very moment. Not a very smart God.

      I would think a tolerant and smart God had plans like somewhere in the billions of years for his creations. Apparently delusions about God puts the very next day as the next doomsday or the coming of the Rapture.

      How silly is that? What it tells me is that the universe is ever so disposable and ever so benign, and that at a whim
      is just a throwaway idea to their God. Marvelous insight in this.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • inthespirit

      Your comment was an encouragement to me and NO you are not remotely insane!

      August 26, 2011 at 7:13 am |
  6. Bob

    Since religion was the cause of 9/11, I agree totally with the decision to exclude religion from the dedication ceremony. And I am a Christian.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  7. Sane Person

    Religious idiocy is what brought those towers down and killed those people. Keep your damn religion away!!!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Meki60

      Go back to your dicatorship country where you would be hung to say that.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • logikflux

      Amen,... ::cough cough::

      August 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Martin T

      Meki, you are clearly a fanatic and not a rational individual, so your comments hold little, if any, real meaning in the conversation...

      August 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  8. The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

    I remember that fateful day. I just rose up from sleep and went into the living room where my now dead mother was watching that terible moment on Tv and she said for me to watch what was happening. I watched and saw the second plane hit one of the twin towers and at 1st I thought it was a movie or,, but it was live. All sorts of thoughts went thru my mind and I was aghast and somewhat mystified as to just how such a thing could happen. More news came regarding the Pentagon and an airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania my home state. I watched with antipathy and denial and I could only feel sorrow at all the lives lost. My hearts does now go out to all the family members who lost their loved ones and may they find comfort thru the ages since when it 1st happened, May you all who watched the event unfold ever remember how life is so prescious and cannot be taken as a grain of salt but all should cherish all life and protect its' so fragile nature and unnatural abruptness ends.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  9. Indyman

    "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."

    Again, the media and American's ignorance dismisses Building 7, which was destroyed by a simple office fire but never hit by a plane. How about a moment of silence for Building 7?

    Wake up, People!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Denise

      The 9/11 Commission never bothered to address Building 7 at all. Don't you wonder why? How did a small fire bring down an entire building? Building 7 was not hit by a plane or any wreckage. Hmmmm.

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

      Perhaps because no one died in building 7?

      August 25, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  10. Denise


    August 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  11. *frank*

    lol they mad

    August 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  12. Meki60

    Prayer is in order. Freedom means if you dont agree, then dont participate. Why are we losing our freedom to let other people have their way?

    August 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • ThomasL

      You dont need "freedom' to pray, you can do it in your head at any time.... Freedom more often means the ability to show off prayer to others.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • logikflux

      Meki, perhaps you wouldn't mind if the prayer was led by a Muslim Imam, instead of a Rev,... it's still a prayer right? It's freedom of speech right? It's freedom of religion right. You can just not participate,... how does that sit with you?

      August 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • logikflux

      I bet they'll even let you bring your own rug and bow to Mecca? Does that sound good to you? How about we just check religion at the door and yuo pray in your head, instead of preying on everyone else.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Denise

      Oh, you poor, persecuted christians. Waaaaaa!

      August 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  13. RC

    So, not even Obama's imam will be attending?

    August 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Meki60

      Obama is a communist, muslim traitor. Why can't people see this?

      August 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Bob

      You, sir, are a jerk.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Denise

      Meki60, you are such an ignorant fool.

      August 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Sporkify

      Christianity at its finest, folks.

      August 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  14. soingene

    Member of the clergy are probably a lot more important at these memorial services than "elected officials."

    August 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Martin T

      How so??? Just curious, you make the statement without any follow up.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Really???

      Because the clergy give spiritual support & the politicians are there to..... get a historic photo taken??????

      August 25, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  15. John

    "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.

    Which is exactly why government shouldn't put clergy up on a stage. Religious events should be privately held.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  16. David M

    Nothing posted on these pages has caused me to rethink my belief. Whether Bloomberg allows prayers or not does not prevent people from praying. I happen to believe in prayer because I have seen the results of it time and time again in my life. I would expect nothing less from a society that has become so 'politically correct' that everything becomes highly 'offensive'. I suppose I should be "outraged" that this decision was made. Honestly, I would have been shocked if he had said public prayers would be allowed.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Coco

      you are right !

      August 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • ThomasL

      YESSSS absolutely, please pray in your head.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  17. Observer

    "we bury God, spit in his face, hide him"

    Wow! Wasn't God supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful?

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Veritas

      God allows free will. If God prevented all bad things from happening, then we would be robots who could not think or act for ourselves. God doesn't WANT bad things to happen, but ultimately he allows us to choose whether or not to do good or evil.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Coco

      yes, it's sad ...

      August 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Martin T

      I simply LOVE the "Free Will" argument, like it's even possible to be valid.. Here's the problem with "free will" IF god is ominipotent, he is all powerful and therefore can change everything at his will; however, if he is also omniscient, he already knows what is going to happen to us, says so in the bible. Now, how can I have free will IF god already has preordained my life, my death, etc???? There is simply the greatest paradox known to man..

      August 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Martin T

      I also love how all the good that happens in the world is because of God's love and all the bad is because of mankinds Evil nature... wait, aren't we created in HIS image... ooops, I see a loophole....

      August 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • John

      There is no god get over it...

      August 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  18. Meki60

    Its another victory for the muslims. why are we letting this happen? it really disappoints me!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I assume you would be OK with a muslim led prayer as part of the religious ceremonies.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Martin T

      How do you think the Muslims have won anything? There were atheists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, etc in those towers. Why must there be some observance of religion at an event meant to remember the lives and sacrifices of those who died there? WHY???

      August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Bob

      This is a victory for those of us who applaud rational decision-making. Keep religion out of it.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Really???

      Ace, you just shot yourself down. An Immam has offered prayers at previous 911 observances because there were innocent Muslims killed on 911 by those fanatics.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      I don't think so... My comment was relavent to the original poster who claimed the exlusion of clerics was a victory for muslims. I think it is logical to assume that if they think this is a victory for muslims that they also think that muslims should not participate. I was being sarcastic.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      Also, the article says "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."

      This suggests that no cleric were involved previously and they are following the same format as in previous years.

      Do you have different facts?

      August 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  19. Habib again

    http://www.faithfreedom.org/ reveal all. Lets join arms againts Islam and Atheist.
    This is your land, defend it before to late.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Veritas

      This land is the Muslims' and atheists' as well. We were never founded as a Christian nation; we are a secular republic that allows freedom of religion. ALL religions not just a particular brand of Christianity.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Martin T

      Perhaps it is US Atheists, who need to join together to defeat religions. What, does that offend you? Well, so too does it offend atheists when religions condemn us and threaten our lives and safety... Get over it.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Crazytown

      If Islamists hate America it is because we are secular (we separate church and state)! If they hated nations for being Christian they would have attacked South Korea instead (the most Christian nation on earth at 95% of their population).

      August 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  20. Wigsnot

    Grow up, and let people practice faith how and when they want to. We are soooo scared of offending others, yet its ok to offend a Christian? Gee I wonder why our country is falling apart....oh I know....we bury God, spit in his face, hide him, we don't want to upset anyone.....honestly this is a load of political crap. Its a damn shame this is happening. God blessed our nation, if you can't see that, then you are blind. We didn't become America by luck or chance. We became America by relying on faith. Our nation is such a sad place,....corrupt, greedy, lost, screwed...and we have done this to ourselves.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Martin T

      You miss the point. For WAY too long, religions have gotten away with just about anything and everything they wanted, it was seen as wrong to question anything that religion wanted. Well, no more. The time has come for religions to get the same scrutiny as everyone else, so I say, GOOD FOR THEM FOR NOT BRINGING RELGION INTO THIS!

      August 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      We became America not by relying on faith but by fighting and giving our blood for this land, these ideas we live and die for. I have fought for this country by children are out fighting for her now. The blood we shed isn't God's blood it's our own blood and the blood of fellow humans. God has not part in it, if he did then he is to blame for it all.

      Fortunately for all there is no God.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Martin T

      High Five John... Like you, I shed my blood for this country in the original Desert Storm and my two sons have fought and my oldest was nearly killed in Iraq when a sniper's bullet went through his chest. Where was god then? Was God working on the side of the Muslim extremist who shot my son? Maybe it was the Muslims day to play with Daddy.

      Thank you for your sacrifice and for your children's as well. Semper Fi!

      August 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Nick

      I for one think that you need to grow up and respect the fact that not all people believe in god, or any religion for that matter. The decision they made is the right one. If people feel the need to pray in private to them selves there is nothing or no one stopping them. The lack of clergy at the memorial respects everyone's beliefs, whether they believe in a god or not. And, just for the record, we became America when the pilgrams came over from England fleeing the church so they could believe in what they wanted. In fact, "In God We Tust" wasn't even added to our currency until the mid 1900's during the "Red Scare". The same goes for "Under God" in The Pledge of Allegiance. Also, our nation's motto "E Pluribus Unum" means "Out of Many, One" signifying how our many struggles have made us a stronger nation. Nowhere does that suggest faith or religion, which is why we also have separation of Church and State. All of this could have been learned from taking a High School history/government class by the way.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:58 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.