Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, urged more than 6,000 worshippers yesterday not to lose trust in God in “the darkest days” of our country, during a Mass held to soothe the pain following terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of thousands.
The cardinal told worshippers to believe that those who inflicted such hurt on the nation would be brought to justice.
The archbishop of military service, the Most Rev. Edwin F. O’Brien, co-celebrated the Mass for Healing and Peace, which was held in the nation’s largest Catholic church — the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Michigan Avenue in Northeast.
Archbishop O’Brien, who oversees all Catholic religious matters in the military, told the congregation the attacks were “a terrible affront to human dignity” and that “appropriate retribution” would be sought against those who caused the devastation.
“Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, evil and death do not have the final say,” he said.
Few of those who prayed and wept during the noon services knew the personal heartache Cardinal McCarrick felt. His cousin’s son was one of the hundreds of New York City firefighters missing in the rubble at the World Trade Center. Michael Lynch, 30, was one of the first who ran into the second building to rescue victims before the tower collapsed.
“This hits too close to home for me,” Cardinal McCarrick told The Washington Times in a private moment before the Mass. “It’s important that we don’t react in anger and vengeance. Otherwise, they’ve won. I have to practice now what I say.”
When it came time to speak to parishioners from his heart, he said, “We wonder about tomorrow. Will our nation change? Will it be a time of fear? Will the awful experiences of September 11 turn our hearts to hatred and revenge?” he asked.
“This must not be,” he said. “All [of] that is foreign to the ideals and values of America. We must come back to that motto on which we built this great nation more than 200 years ago. We must never forget that it is ‘in God we trust.’”
Pope John Paul II yesterday sent a special message to worshippers, encouraging Americans to have renewed hope and a more determined resolve to reject hatred and violence.
“To all I solemnly repeat the gospel injunction not to be conquered by evil but to conquer evil with good, to trust in the power of God’s grace to transform human hearts and to work fearlessly to shape a future of justice, peace and security for the children of our world,” the pontiff said in the message, which was read out loud at the beginning of the service.
Two cardinals, four bishops and 28 priests helped celebrate the hourlong Mass, which was attended by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, U.S. Reps. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, and Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp.
During his homily, Archbishop O’Brien warned Americans not to succumb to anger they may have toward the Middle East by discriminating against Arab-Americans or other Muslims because of the actions of the suspected terrorists.
“We cannot afford to compound the problem,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “Any such prejudice is un-American and un-Christian.”
In his closing remarks, Cardinal McCarrick told worshippers the nation would overcome this crisis.
“Those who hurt us must be brought to justice. Those who seek to destroy us must be made to realize that it is a dangerous and impossible adventure,” he said.
“But these lessons we will teach within the boundaries of our system of law and according to the precepts of our values, never descending to the level of those who attack us by the wanton killing of the innocent,” he said.
Almost all of those who attended the Mass in the 81-year-old basilica said they were there to show support for the victims of the attacks.
“We wanted to pray for the people in the twin towers,” said 9-year-old Thomas Friel of Rockville, who came to Mass with his father, John Friel, his mother and his sister, Katie, 17.
Mr. Friel said he brought his family to the service so they could share strength in numbers. He said being with others in church brought them comfort. “The rituals — especially during difficult times — bring a sense of peace,” he said.
Adm. William J. Fallon, vice chief of naval operations, said the Navy lost 42 persons when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Adm. Fallon was attending a meeting in the Pentagon down the hall from where the airliner struck.
“Being here at Mass was pretty inspirational,” Adm. Fallon said after the service. “It’s just been incredible, the outpouring of support the military has gotten over the last week. It just tells me that the human spirit is undaunted and can overcome evil.”
Silvia Zaleta, of Alexandria, said she came to the service to pray for those missing and feared dead and to pray that the country would remain united for weeks to come.
“We need to have harmony and to help one another. We are one family,” she said.
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