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. dick

    911 was an inside job and the bush family has blood alll over their hands from those crimes and more. the fact that there is no one there to offer a prayer but they did invite the guys that did all the murdering is sick and disgusting

    August 26, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • mosinnagant

      I couldn't agree more.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Don't do meth

      If it weren't for guys like you, I'd be bored and out of business! I'll just be in my lab cookin up some more cryst–I mean, product– for you, thank God you have the power to vote and procreate!

      August 26, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  2. mosinnagant

    Who cares about the clergy? What about the 9-11 first responders that have been barred from the ceremony?


    August 26, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Try this dude or dudette.

      Its an election year and the polls show that the public really dislike their politicians, on both sides and including the president.

      The last thing they want to do is share the stage with clergy and those who were heroes that day.

      Its all about getting the votes, baby. 🙂

      August 26, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Don't do meth

      Mark's answers are too reasonable and cynical to be taken seriously by most. Shame too, because they sound fairly right across the board.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  3. ESP

    What it really comes down to is our cowardly leaders not wanting to offend any Muslims, by calling attention to the FACT that it was an act perpetrated by an extremist religious group with a highly political and brutal agenda. It is because of leadership, like this, and an apathetic and an undereducated poplulation that our Nation is in decline.

    August 26, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Observer

      Speaking of apathy, you do remember that it was Bush who said he wasn't concerned about the person responsible for 9/11 and read "The Pet Goat" while our nation was being attacked.

      FACT: estimates of the number of Muslims killed by the terrorists was in the 60's.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  4. offended

    If we are good enough to bury your dead then we are good enough to be there on that day!

    August 26, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  5. Rudy

    Religion is what got us here in the first place. What a refreshing change. HOWEVER, FIRST RESPONDERS who were responding to the attacks at Ground Zero on that faithful day WERE NOT invited to attend the events on the 11th. Local government officials/politicians told the first responders there was NOT ENOUGH ROOM FOR THEM TO ATTEND due to the high volume of politicians attending. This is an utter disgrace and an absolute slap in the face to those who worked to save so many.

    August 26, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Hi Rudy, maybe it was because of Mychal Judge.

      Mychal F. Judge, OFM (born Robert Emmet Judge on May 11, 1933; died September 11, 2001) was a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, and the first recorded victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  6. dave

    This what the boys over there are fighting for.

    August 26, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Well, some would say it is for Oil and to destablize the region so that another strong military will never flourish there.

      But, we can all agree with this ... its not just the "boys" fighting over there. The sisters are serving and dying as well.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  7. optimus

    It is interesting how Abraham Lincoln mentioned and referred to God many times in his addresses, but God is now off limits. Apparently we must allow the tribes of Abraham to continue the ongoing war and ignore the will of God for any kind of peace.

    August 26, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Observer

      “My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have
      become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."
      - Abraham Lincoln, to Judge J S Wakefield, 1862

      August 26, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • abby

      Speaking of Abraham Lincoln, and on a lighter note, i know a descendent of Abraham Enlow – speculation is that he is Abraham Lincoln's true father. I am trying to talk her into suing to have his body exhumed and having dna testing – just a side note in this deep discussion today.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  8. joand

    Absolutely concur. Continue the trend of no religion. What a refreshing change...

    August 26, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Aboutjab

      I like this trend as well.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  9. Carlos

    Religion is a problem, not a solution.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • abby

      I wouldn't say religion is the problem – its people's misuse of religion.
      People using religion as a shield to hide their own powerhungry evil ideas behind. I think most people know both religious people who simply live their religion thru their acts and we all know religious people who use their religion to judge others, put others down, etc.. Its like any powerful aspect of a society, politics, medicine, etc.. you have the people that use it as a good vehicle and then you have those who use it for their own power hungry selves. Sports is another example – you have those who go out and prove themselves in their sport and promote the goodwill of sportsmanship and then you have those that are just in it for the money and teh sport itself is second to their own ego, etc.. Even if there was no religion, there would still be wars – its not about religion really – its all about control and getting power of more and more and more.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • imagine

      mythology is the root of all evil..

      August 26, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  10. Observer

    One good example why religion should be kept out of 9/11 ceremonies:

    September 13, 2001: JERRY FALWELL: I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
    PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur"

    August 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • *frank*


      August 26, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Ok, so at the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication because I can post some Grand Wizard or Skinheads comments on African Americans and/or other minorities. Then can I say....

      .... One good example why "whites" should be kept out of the Martin Luther King ceremonies..

      August 26, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Observer


      So you consider top religious leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to be comparable to unknown skinheads or the KKK? Interesting.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Why....umm... are you one of those Atheist that think that all people of Faith think and interpret the scripture the same. I guess when you see a Baptist Church across from a Catholic Church you probably wonder why because you think that the same interpretation of the text is the same.

      Sorry dude, hate is hate … even when it is shouted from the Atheist section of the Stadium 🙂

      Let us go further. You quoted Falwell as saying:

      “I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

      Now, at 12:15 Kat-a-Tat said:
      “Religion is the cause for the attacks in the first place!!”

      See, how if you call yourself fighting the monster how so easy it is to become just like him in spirit and words.

      Do you still find it interesting my friend. 🙂

      August 26, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Observer


      Let's stay on topic. This is about what two of America's top religious leaders said. Trying to incorporate someone else into the conversation is just a dodge.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Jeepers

      My mom said to me on the phone today that she thinks the recent earthquake and hurricane heading towards DC have something to do with how America is treating Israel...or some crap like that. She gets this stuff from my batsh!t crazy uncle, who gets it from Pat Robertson.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”Let's stay on topic. This is about what two of America's top religious leaders said. Trying to incorporate someone else into the conversation is just a dodge.”

      Ahh.... I get it …. when losing ground throw out the “stay on topic” 😀

      I am just showing that the Atheist crowd can be just as nasty as the 700 club bunch. Sorry, I guess I proved my point. You list these Falwell and Robertson as “two of America's top religious leaders”.

      ...you do know that one of them has been dead since May 15, 2007, Right? 🙂

      Since we are throwing out “dead” leaders, can I use the Reverend Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa? Or are you only allowed to present negative Christians with me unable to counter with positive ones?

      August 26, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Observer


      Here's news for you: Falwell and Robertson were alive on 9/11 and that is what they said. More news: they were probably America's top religious leaders when they made those comments. Please tell us that what another blogger (or unknown skinhead or KKK member) said carries the same weight as Falwell and Robertson.

      When losing, try to change the subject and pretend that two top American religious leaders didn't try to say that Americans deserved what happened. Stay on topic: did they say that, yes or no?

      August 26, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Mad Cow

      It's the Teletubbies fault!

      August 26, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”Here's news for you: Falwell and Robertson were alive on 9/11 and that is what they said. More news: they were probably America's top religious leaders when they made those comments. “

      Ok first Pat Robertson is still alive. Second, the “top religious leaders” distinction. You do know and hopefully understand that in the vast and large communion of Christians that ...and I want you to get this.... the ti'tle of “top religious leader” does not exist. The numbers are that there is probably triple the percentage that are not or were not in Farwell and Robertsons flock.

      Think of it as with the Koran burning Rev Terry Jones. There were Atheist that posted as if he spoke or was honored by all Christians as a “Top” leader in Christianity. Maybe in their minds and his, he was. The rest of us Christians had never heard of him before. Farwell and Robertson are/were ministers but the 700 club crowd represents the 700 club crowd no matter how much some Athiest and both of them did/do believe. If you believe them to carry the weight of a Osteen or a TD Jakes or even Robert Shaw then you are again doing what many Atheist do, you are looking at Christians as monolithic.

      They said it yes.... and yes you are thinking that they speak for all Christians.

      Oh and for the win ... and David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the klan and holder of elected office for the state of Louisiana. Something that Farwell and Robertson did not do. 🙂

      August 26, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • Amom

      I am not gay, I am not a member of the ACLU, I am not a feminist, I am not an abortionist but I am a sinner. I know this, on 9/11 God had my attention. Many, many others also turned their attention toward God as evidenced by the numbers of people streaming into the churches in the weeks that followed 9/11. But this is America and our attention span is short. What is it going to take?

      August 26, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • Observer

      "Ok first Pat Robertson is still alive. Second, the “top religious leaders” distinction.'

      Nothing but avoiding the subject. First, I NEVER said Robertson wasn't alive. Second, pretending that there is some official "top religious leaders" designation is just more avoidance. You and I both know that any poll at the time would have shown them to be top religious leaders. If you don't know recent history, then read up about their empires and huge audiences. You need to also read up on whether David Dukes, even in office, had as much influence on America as those two. Read about students from Falwell's college who got jobs in the Bush administration.

      Another dodge: changing the subject to a discussion of whether ANYONE could completely represent ANY group. Of course not. Same for Terry Jones. I never said he or they did, so don't try to hint that I did.

      Robertson and Falwell statements indicated that Americans got what they deserved. Go ahead and fantasize that they didn't. Have fun. Good luck.

      August 26, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”Second, pretending that there is some official "top religious leaders" designation is just more avoidance.”

      Hmm.... I want you to hit “ctrl-f” … type in “offical” and see who is the only one to use that designation. I will say this...he is not in the Middle 🙂 Nice try though.

      >>>”You and I both know that any poll at the time would have shown them to be top religious leaders.”

      If you had said the Pope or if this was the mid 70s or early 80s .. maybe … but my friend you are 20 years past these two ministers prime.

      >>>”Read about students from Falwell's college who got jobs in the Bush administration.”

      So Yale, Harvard, Brown, ...but there is something “fishy” or wrong about anyone that graduated from Falwell's college getting a upper echelon government job? Wow dude, that's pretty biased against Falwell students.

      >>>”Another dodge: changing the subject “

      Nope, I have stayed on subject and just kept busting your chops with examples to show your hipocrasy. As every hit lands flush you cry foul. As the old folks say... anyone can be a marksman when the target does not fire back.

      >>>”Robertson and Falwell statements indicated that Americans got what they deserved. “

      Umm... I said that it was. Do you remember: “Sorry dude, hate is hate … even when it is shouted from the Atheist section of the Stadium”

      Come on for someone that calls themselves Observer, you sure do not “Observe” what you opponent is saying to you.

      August 26, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  11. abby

    Amazing – again we have let the 9/11 event drive a wedge amongst the US folks. Reading the posts here really makes a person wonder – all this anger towards our own people. People who say this happen because of religion – not really, its because of power hungry politically driven. Religion was just a scapegoat to use for the attack. Maybe no specific religion should be "prominent" in the ceremony – but maybe the families should be the ones to decide – its their loved ones that died. I don't know what the correct answer is – but i sure don't think its a bunch of political people getting up and spouting words. Everybody has the right to their opinion – so maybe we should try to respectfully argue online rather than spout off namecalling nasty comments. Its just sad and I only read one page worth of comments.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Abby, ...its a toss up ...the Fundamentalist Atheists or the Fundamentalist Faithful.

      To them it is never seen as "driving a wedge" .... its just another opportunity to find their way to hate. 🙁

      August 26, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • joand

      By your own argument then religion should be left out of the ceremony. Each person there should reflect in whatever way is common in his/her religious practice. They don't need some holy man standing up there running his lips. In the moments of silence especially each person can reflect on the religious teachings that have most affected and assisted in the past.
      Leave the religious people on the sidelines, in the church, where they belong.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • abby

      Mark from the Middle River – agree.
      joand – my argument isn't really that the religion should be left out – my argument is that no leaders be involved – political or religion – it should be the families who pick who says what. And now instead of pulling the people together over a common goal – just the way it was stated and played in the media – and the religious leaders talking to the media about it – it has become a wedge. Bot the political leaders and the religious leaders could have played this out in the media alot better. And drawn us as a people together despite our differences rather than starting a war of words and thus overshadowing the fact these people loss their lives. A real leader would have handled it differently – again it seems as if they are out for their own agendas rather than what the service is suppose to be about.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Joan- Only if you feel that all Atheist and Faithful are Fundamentalist. Those of us in the middle have really no problem with it. Its only from the outside fringes that like to throw the wedge.

      Think about it … where is the “wedge” always aimed at ...where is it always hoped to land... in the middle. At those who find that they can co-exist and find peace and it does not require the destruction of another that looks, believes and sounds different.

      Destroy the peace is to destroy the middle. The Faithful are part of society and to say that they need to stay on the sidelines or else-where is you sounding a lot like the 700 club folks when they talk about Gays and Lesbians being Gay in the seclusion of their homes and not out in society.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  12. Stephanie

    I grew up during all of this I saw this first hand, Religion is the poison that causes most of the worlds greatest wars so if you believe in something that destroys the lives of billions go ahead but unless you lived through the horrors of that day you have nothing to say. Religion has no right when it comes to any big memorial EVER Religion has no say in the government.
    Worship at home and leave the rest of us to morn this day by respecting those who died.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Lightness

      Thats why Jesus didn't came and said lo lo lo I created Christians! No no no He would not said something like that. Jesus mission is to spread the good news from heaven about human salvation afterlife. And He came to save his children.

      The world call this saved children as Christians.

      Christians never oppose or create war, the personal leader did. In bible teach only to believe and obey to goverment.

      Islam teach to slay others. Thats why you can see sword symbol in one Arab country.

      August 26, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  13. J.W

    Maybe every year that we remember this it will bring us closer together. We may not all be the same religion, but we should all still want is best for each other, and that is world peace. We will probably have world peace within the next 10 years.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  14. atheist

    This is amazing!!! Someone is actually standing up to the religious 'leaders' who want to take credit for what the real heros did.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  15. thes33k3r

    Good decision. The religious leaders are simply peeved b/c they are not going to get to advertise to a captive audience. Pray at home. Pray at church. Whatever. You wanna waste your precious time pretending that you are talking to an invisible being? Don't expect the gov't to approve it or everyone to sit idly by while you do so.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  16. LarryInBama

    If you really need a "religiously-trained" Harvard theologian or – heaven forfend! – an Oral Roberts theological "Doctor" to do your praying for you, you're not much of a believer, are you? If god won't listen to you, why would he listen to an "ordained" person with a PhD sheepskin hanging on his wall?

    August 26, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  17. Stacey

    I am a religious person myself. But I don't need the clergy to be present in order to pray. If this is what the mayor/city council wishes, then let them make that choice. I recognize that religion may be polarizing to a few. So perhaps this was the safest choice, logistically and politically. And I will pray on that day and each day after that, with or without the clergy, God Willing, that we will eventually heal as a nation. It does not matter what religion you follow, or if you are agnostic or atheist, because what unites us is a desire to prosper, the need for good health, good neighbors and a nice vacation once in awhile.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  18. John B

    I agree, I am getting tired of pretty much ALL religions trying to tell me their's is better than others, forcing on me what faith they think I should have. There are so many religions in this Melting Pot, there is no way to fairly represent them all anyway.

    This is NOT about them, but about the Families of those who lost their lives that day, and Those who lost their lives.

    If the Families agreed to this, then that is their decision, let it be. It is their day to remember and move forward.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  19. AmericanSam

    Let's allow our personal beliefs to remain personal.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  20. one planet

    no religion, nice. let's continue this trend...

    August 26, 2011 at 12:28 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.