September 11, 2016 - Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM, Cap. Statement on the 15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001
Anniversaries, be they of joyful, sad or tragic events, are times of reflection, moments of gratitude or sorrow accounting for lessons learned and hopes for the future. The fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is a day which warrants prayerful attention in the Catholic community and deserves thoughtful reflection in our nation as a whole.
The first priority for our Archdiocese is remembrance of those lost in these unconscionable attacks. The celebration of the Eucharist reminds us that the light of Christ is not extinguished by darkness and evil. This Sunday we pray in a special way for the innocent civilians and the public safety first responders whose lives were taken when hijacked planes were used as means of destruction in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and for the families and loved ones of the victims. We also remember all those in the military, government service who have made the ultimate sacrifice of service in the international conflicts which have engulfed the world since September 11, 2001. As Catholics our prayer extends to all who people who have died in these conflicts and to the tens of thousands of refugees driven from their homes and lands.
This fifteenth anniversary also recalls the meaning we attribute to 9/11 and its consequences. In the first instance, it was a terrorist attack on civilians which violated all established moral and legal norms of conduct. The events of that day also illustrated for our country and others a fundamental vulnerability to modern acts of terrorism. Since then, many nations have experienced similar forms of violence. These numerous attacks and the responses of large scale military operations have been further complicated by appeals to religion as a motivating factor in terrorist violence. These appeals have no defensible foundation or justification. Notably, Muslim leaders have time and again repudiated the call to violence. The responses to terror by the United States and other nations are based in an established moral-legal foundation, but they have also caused large scale civilian casualties and in specific cases have had devastating consequences for entire countries.
Full and appropriate consideration of the tragic events of 9/11 goes beyond the scope of a single day, even this anniversary. However, there are fundamental principles which should inform all of our reflection and analysis:
- Religion cannot and should not be placed in the service of wars of terror or aggression, the use of deadly force is morally justifiable only in circumstances of defense of life and safety.
- All religious leadership, regardless of denomination, should actively seek and advocate to resolve conflicts through peace and reconciliation.
- Refugees and migrants have rights which must be recognized and as best possible provided for by states, international organizations and religious communities.
- Restoration following the conflicts of the last fifteen years will require both meaningful international cooperation and significant financial and humanitarian resources from public and private sources.
On this day of remembrance, we join with all people of good will in commending those lost on September 11, 2001 to the mercy of our loving God as we renew the commitment to work for a society based in compassion, justice and peace.