Archbishop Vincent Nichols: homily for September 11

 One year ago today, 11 September 2001, we were transfixed by the events that took place in New York, Washington and Philadelphia. Never have acts of terrorism been so closely recorded or so widely broadcast. They were indeed, world events for few were not deeply affected by their horror. Those who perpetrated the events have been rightly condemned, for no injustice can justify such deliberate and random destruction of human life. Pray For All Victims Of Terrorism But today, above all, we think of, and pray for, those whose lives were lost in the terrorists attacks, whether in the planes or on the ground. We pray that they are at peace with God in heaven. We pray for their loved ones, who still mourn their loss and who today live again the horror of 11 September 2001. In praying for them, let us also pray for all victims of terrorism: in Ireland, in Israel, in Palestine and, sadly, in so many other countries. There is no doubt that the intention of the terrorists - and of all terrorists, perhaps - was not only to take human life, but thereby to shake the foundations of our society. In this they failed. The people of New York and Washington were shaken but not to their foundations. Think, in the first place, of the human ingenuity and courage that limited dramatically the number of fatalities and casualties. Thank God that thousands upon thousands escaped from the World Trade Centre. Secondly, these atrocities brought out all that is best in the human spirit: courage, selflessness, dedication, and compassion. I thank God for those qualities which so many demonstrated in abundance: rescue workers, firemen, chaplains and counsellors, politicians and the public who all gave unstinting support. Dignity Of Every Human Person But may I highlight one aspect of the rescue and demolition work of the last year one aspect that stands as a sure contradiction of the evil intentions and beliefs of the terrorists. It is this. Throughout those months of work, painstaking efforts were made to identify and treat with respect every human remain. There was no indiscriminate clearance of that vast site. Rather a startling witness was given to the dignity of every human person, even in death, by those who sifted through the mountains of rubble, searching out the last remains of every human body. Then those remains were treated with ceremony, prayer, and great care. In doing this, New Yorkers strengthened the foundations of our society and defied the mentality of the terrorist. While terrorism belittles the human person, treating human beings as worthless, as no more than a disposable pawn in their acts of terror, New Yorkers affirmed that in the eyes of God every person has unique dignity, in life and in death. In acting as they did, the rescuers affirmed our faith and hope of the Resurrection and honoured the bodies of the children of God, each of whom is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Let us thank God today for their witness. Pray For Peace But today let us also pray for peace, for again the western world is facing the prospect of war. Leaders of nations bear heavy responsibilities. They must do all they can to preserve peace and stability. Indeed, they have a duty to confront those who would do evil and threaten destruction. The regime of Saddam Hussein has perpetrated real and unique evil and stands in defiance of international order. It represents a threat that cannot be ignored. We have a duty to support all those who seek to respond to it in a responsible and direct way. We will certainly pray for them. But leaders also have a profound moral duty to do all they can to avoid war. Its costs are so frightening, its means so morally dubious and its outcomes so uncertain that the declaration of war must always be a last resort. War Against Saddam Hussein Today, our concern is the prospect of a possible pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein. Such a prospect is deeply troubling. And it is difficult to come to a firm moral judgement about it. Indeed, such a firm judgement cannot be given without a full declaration of the facts. Before support could be considered we must know as much as possible about the unique risks the world now faces from the regime in Iraq and about the threat posed to Britain. It is so important that every realistic avenue to monitor, contain or halt his activities be explored before a decision to use military force can be taken. We need to know, otherwise the doubts so widely expressed about the wisdom and justice of this proposed action are surely correct. Pray Let us pray this evening for our fragile world, for those who are dreadfully oppressed and in whose hearts an anger burns and for those who work for the confronting of evil as a necessary work for peace. But most of all we pray for those who weep at the loss of their loved ones, those who died a year ago today. May God bless us with his tender mercy and teach us to walk in his ways. Amen.

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