United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 10, 2002
9/11. What this date now represents has changed our lives, our nation, our world and our community of faith. 9/11 has become a symbol of unspeakable evil and deep loss, of tremendous sacrifice and great faith and of challenges we continue to face as a people.
We know the wounds are deep and will not be quickly or easily healed. The murder of so many innocent people from so many countries requires us to act as a nation and to offer continuing consolation and support as a people. The loss of life in Afghanistan, whether U.S. military personnel or Afghan men, women and children, also weighs heavily on us. Our faith tells us that every life is precious whether a person worked at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or was on the flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania or lived in Afghanistan.
We also mourn the loss of our sense of invulnerability. Yet, our faith challenges us to live in solidarity with those around the world who face pervasive violence and insecurity. As our nation considers important questions of war and peace, our faith calls us to find the right ways to seek justice, to become peacemakers, and to protect the life and dignity of all in a world broken by terror and disrespect for human life.
One year later, we are still inspired by selfless acts of courage. We must sustain our generosity in reaching out to those touched by this tragedy. We must continue to teach the attitudes of respect and fairness that call us to reject hate, revenge, and violence, particularly against those of us who are Arab-Americans and Muslims. Most of all, we can defeat the fear that terrorists promote by placing our trust in the Risen Lord and working to replace hate with understanding and violence with respect for all human life.
We need to deepen the faith and hope that lifted us up and sustained us over the past year to continue to shape who we are and how we act in the days ahead. Firm resolve in defending innocent life and the common good against terrorism is still required of our nation. In this necessary task, we must ensure restraint in the use of military force, insisting that traditional moral norms governing war and protecting the innocent be observed. This "war on terrorism" should be fought with the support of the international community and primarily by non-military means, denying terrorists resources, recruits, and opportunities for their evil acts. As our nation seeks to defend our people and values, we should hold fast to our basic principles of justice, freedom, fairness, and openness in our treatment of all persons, especially vulnerable immigrants and refugees.
We also need to ensure that poor people at home and around the world do not bear disproportionate burdens in the sacrifices ahead. As we confront evil acts, which no cause can justify, this "war on terrorism" must not deflect us from sustained commitment to overcome poverty, conflict and injustice, particularly in the Middle East and the developing world, which can provide fertile ground in which hopelessness and terrorism thrive. Our faith calls us to seek not only a safer world, but a more just and peaceful world for all God's children.
On this September 11th, we join Catholics throughout the country who are completing a nine-day novena of prayer, fasting, education, service and witness. We ask a Merciful God to receive those who have died, to heal a wounded people and to nourish our faith and our hope in the promise of the Christ Risen. We ask the God of Justice to give us the grace, wisdom and courage to help us comfort those who mourn, to show mercy, to hunger and thirst for what is right and to become peacemakers (Matthew 5). We echo the words that Pope John Paul II has said, "Evil…does not have the final word in human affairs." Our task as believers a year after September 11 is to help make this promise come true.