Lack of clergy at Sept. 11 memorial prompts separate prayer event

Emergency personnel salute at a Ground Zero ceremony. Credit: 911memorial.org
Emergency personnel salute at a Ground Zero ceremony. Credit: 911memorial.org

.- Some Christian ministers have objected to the 9/11 Memorial Service’s failure to include members of the clergy and have scheduled a public prayer service for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, a Reformed Presbyterian Church minister who is director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said it was “extremely troubling” for Mayor Bloomberg to “exclude public prayer and expressions of faith” from the memorial.

“During the past 10 years, it has only been faith in God and prayer that has enabled so many to move forward and rebuild their lives and protected America from another major terrorist attack,” he said.

Organizers of the memorial service said that the event follows the custom established for the previous memorial events.

“The structure for this program was designed 10 years ago, with the consultation of a lot of families of those who died, and it is primarily for the families,” Stu Loeser, Mayor Bloomberg’s press secretary, told the New York Times.

He said it was wrong to say the ceremony excludes prayer or clergy members. Chaplains from the Fire and Police Department and Port Authority police often attend. Loeser said most people use the events’ moments of silence for reflection and prayer.

At the official event the names of the victims are read aloud continuously for hours, allowing four breaks for moments of silence at the times when the hijacked planes struck the two World Trade Center towers and the times when the towers fell. This Sunday there will be a total of six moments of silence for the plane that hit the Pentagon and the plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pa.

Participants in the service will meet in front of St. Paul’s Chapel at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10. They will then walk to West Broadway and Vecsey Street where they will begin a prayer service in front of the PATH Train entrance.

Rev. Mahoney thought it was “imperative” to have a public prayer service at Ground Zero during the anniversary weekend. While the absence of prayer at the official service may seem reasonable to some, he suggested, “it will only compound the pain and the loss of others.”

“During our prayer time at Ground Zero, we will seek God for His continued protection, especially with new credible terrorist threats, pray for those who lost loved ones, pray for our leaders and elected officials and turn to God in repentance recognizing only He can bring healing and restoration to our nation,” he said.

Chris Slattery, founder of the pro-life pregnancy center organization Expectant Mother Care, said the exclusion of prayer excludes “one of the most important factors in helping millions of Americans get through the shock and grief of that brutal attack.”

“We are going to pray at Ground Zero because it is essential that we honor God and continue to look to Him for strength and protection,” Slattery said.

Catholic ceremonies and Masses are also being held throughout New York City, and in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Newark.

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