Homily of Most Rev John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne at St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, for Nationals Day of Mourning
14 September 2001
“ We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
because by your Cross you have redeemed the world”.
On this day, my dear brothers and sisters, when the Church celebrates the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross of Jesus Christ, on this day when our Nation mourns the loss of so many lives in the tragic events which have unfolded this week in New York, in Washington and in Pennsylvania, on this day when we stand in solidarity with one another and with the people of America, we find ourselves once more at the foot of the Cross in all our brokenness and frailty and we adore the Saviour who, through the folly of the Cross, has redeemed the world.
The tragic events of last Tuesday, so graphically transmitted to the world and into every home by the means of communication, seem so incomprehensible, so horrific that our human minds and hearts, our frail human emotions fail to come to terms with the immensity of the tragedy. It is necessary for us, as a community, to come together in human solidarity and in Christian love and support so that, through our common prayer and reflection, we may, in some way, find answers to questions which burden us, to doubts which weaken us and to fears which threaten us. In the darkness of tragedy, in the seeming finality of death, in the continuing apprehension of the unknown of the future, we Christians stand together in the light of Christ, the Saviour, and in the surety of faith knowing that “ God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”(Jn.3: 16).
As our prayers and thoughts reach out today to the many thousands in the United States of America who are grieving the loss of their dear ones and to those of our own Nation who have lost dear family members in the tragic events, our closeness to all in their grief has been heightened by the many voice and text messages which have been heard and read from those who were facing certain death, messages of love and affection, messages of hope and forgiveness, messages which will remain as last wills and testaments of innocent human beings so tragically separated from their dear ones. Our prayers and thoughts today go especially to the Clifford family in Togher, Cork and to all in this Nation of ours who have, in any way, been caught up in the appalling spiral of events of this week.
And who in our Nation has not been caught up in these events? Because of the special links which bind us to the people of the United States, because of the more than 44 million Americans who are proud of their Irish heritage, we are a Nation in grief, we are a Nation which mourns. Many of the forbearers of the American people left these shores and were welcomed into what was known as the ‘land of freedom’, ‘the new world’, when our Nation and people were brought to their knees in tragic times. The statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers on the sea front here in Cobh looks across the ocean to Ellis Island in New York where they were the first of millions to arrive there seeking a new life and the opportunity to begin again to build a future for themselves. Many were those who, leaving these shores, heard for the last time the Bells of this Cathedral ring out across the water and they handed on this last memory of Ireland to succeeding generations of Irish Americans who have never forgotten their homeland. Indeed only last Tuesday, as the horrific events were unfolding in the United States, I met a group of people here in the Cathedral from New York and New Jersey paying their respects to this hallowed spot which saw off their great-grandparents to the new world.
My dear friends, we are bonded in a very special way, through history, with our brothers and sisters in the United States, especially now with those who have suffered and are suffering in New York, in Washington and in Pennsylvania. Now in their time of need, now when they may appear to be a people brought to its knees through this human tragedy, we stand with them in solidarity and prayer. They are a resilient people, as we ourselves are, and we know that they will rise above the pain and loss they have suffered. May our gathering here today, may our signing of the book of condolence, may our offering of the life-giving Sacrifice of Calvary here on this Altar bring consolation to all who are grieving and suffering, call down the Mercy of God on all who have lost their lives and may it remind us that through the folly of the Cross came the promise of eternal life.
The Holy Father, on hearing of the tragic events of last Tuesday said:
“ Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity……How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it”.( General Audience – Wednesday 12 September 2001).
My dear friends, as we pray today we reach out to all those who are suffering in hospitals as a result of these barbaric acts and to those who are caring for them; we reach out to those who are working in such appalling conditions, endeavouring to find those who may still be alive under the rubble, endeavouring to restore to dear ones the mortal remains of those who have been lost. We remember, in a very special way, those police men and women and the firefighters who lost their lives in going to the aid of those who were trapped in those ‘towers of death’. We pray for the people of America and for their Leaders that they may rise above the horror and fear that has been engendered and show to the world that violence, from whatever source it comes, is not the way to harmony among peoples but rather that justice and peace may prevail. May the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour, which so identifies the reality of freedom offered by the shores of America to so many of our own people and to the people of the world – that Statue which looked across at the Twin Towers as they sank with their human cargo to a tangled mess of dust and rubble – may that Statue always point the way to a Nation which cherishes values and which respects life and freedom, love and solidarity, justice and peace.
As the Holy Father concluded, may I conclude with His words: “I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to join me in prayer for them. Let us beg the Lord that the spiral of hatred and violence will not prevail. May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Mercy, fill the hearts of all with wise thoughts and peaceful intentions”.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace!
My dear friends, let us all now stand for a moment in silent prayer and reflection remembering those who have so tragically lost their lives and those grieve their great loss.
Issued by the Catholic Communications Office on behalf of Most Rev John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne.
Fr Martin Clarke (087 220 8044)
Ms Brenda Drumm (087 233 7797)