French Cardinal Honors Victims of 9/11

Asks: «Is it Possible to Forgive?»

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PARIS, SEPT. 16, 2011 ( Here are excerpts from the homily given by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, at a Mass in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The cardinal celebrated the Mass in memory of the victims at the request of the U.S. ambassador. Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of Muslim Worship; Richard Prasquier, president of the Committee Representing the Jewish Institutions in France; and Monsignor Emmanuel, president of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, attended the service.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends, My Brothers,

Is it possible for men to forgive? This is the question that is brutally posed to us by today’s liturgy, when we recall the events whose unprovoked cruelty and destructive will shocked the whole world. How can we flee from this question when we think of the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States of America, [and] when we add to the atrocious sum of sufferings, the list — unfortunately endless — of victims of international terrorism?

We see each day in our personal life, our family life and our social life that forgiveness is not a spontaneous movement. The natural movement of the human heart is, rather, to seek compensation, or reparation, or vengeance. If it is so difficult for us to forgive in the little wrongs we suffer each day, we understand well that the forgiveness of more important and more cruel attacks is yet far more difficult and, to say it brutally, it seems to us beyond what we can bear.

The parable used by Jesus to open Simon Peter’s heart to a generous forgiveness, undoubtedly helps us to measure the gap between our idea of forgiveness and the veritable model of forgiveness that is given by God, whose mercy is infinite and beyond our measures. There, where Simon Peter wished to quantify and impose limits, God draws him into infinite mercy.

However, Jesus does not close us in an impasse. The parable brings us into a logical reflection accessible to our intelligence and to our reasoning: If we wish to benefit from the forgiveness that God offers to humanity in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we must also enter into an attitude of forgiveness; and this attitude of forgiveness draws us with Jesus along the path of Jerusalem and his passion. It is also the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave us to speak to our Father: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us!

In a culture and society where the excitement of news is always seeking controversies, confrontations and oppositions, our efforts to live in democracy risk being lost in social violence, most often verbal, but also, alas, at times physical. We must admit it, acts of violence are aroused simultaneously by hatred of the other and by the desire to be talked about. How many times acts of terrorism are perpetrated to mobilize the media’s attention and to prosper from the horror but also the morbid fascination of the spectacle of victims?


Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends, I now invite you, during a few moments of silence, to render homage to the victims of September 11, 2001, to those who were killed, as well as to those who perished in the rescue operations or as a result of the attack. I invite believers to pray for these victims and for all victims of terrorism. I invite you all to reflect on our collective tendencies and on the place that we give to violence and hatred.


+André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris

[Translation by ZENIT]
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