US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Remembering 9/11, prayers not included

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

As much of the East Coast attempts to dry out today, there's one thing that hasn't been washed away by Hurricane Irene: the anger over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision last week to exclude clergy from the 9/11 tenth anniversary ceremony.

A spokesperson for Bloomberg told CNN last week that the reason for the exclusion was simply that they did not wish to have the event focus on which religions were or were not represented. "Rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate," spokeswoman Evelyn Erskine said, "we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died."

That's certainly a noble intention. It is hard to imagine, though, that friends and family of those who died on 9/11 wouldn't want some religious component to the ceremony. For many Americans, faith--whatever faith that might be--played a major role in understanding the tragedy, grieving their losses, and moving on with their lives. So wouldn’t people prefer to have some representation of that faith at the memorial gathering?

Not surprisingly, the mayor's decision has drawn the ire of many in the religious world, including the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, who is among those that have called for representatives of several major religions to have an opportunity to speak at the event. But on Friday, the mayor's office confirmed that they have no plans to change their stance on the issue.

With September 11 falling on a Sunday this year, there will be no shortage of religious ceremonies that day. In fact, the Archdiocese of New York has a full schedule of 9/11 memorial events running throughout the week leading up to the anniversary. I’m sure many other religious groups in New York (and around the country) have similar activities planned, so there will certainly be opportunities for people to reflect and remember in a religious way.

But all eyes will be on the city’s big ceremony, where religion will be conspicuous by its absence. That’s unfortunate, since a united group of faith leaders representing different religions, even if they didn’t receive a lot of attention or speaking time, would be a visible reminder of the unity that we all felt as a nation on 9/11.

Instead, the bickering over this and other questions of who should or should not be invited to the ceremony is serving as just another wedge to divide us. Is that really how we want to memorialize one of our country’s most tragic days?

Related: U.S. Catholic readers share thoughts on 9/11