What does Benedict’s Ground Zero prayer actually say?

April 12, 2008

The World Trade Center burns, 11 Sept. 2001/Jeff ChristensenThere is an interesting discussion about a Reuters story going on at another blog. Terry Mattingly of GetReligion started it with some comments on Phil Pullella’s report (headline: “Pope Ground Zero prayer seeks terrorists’ redemption”) on the prayer that Pope Benedict will say at Ground Zero during his visit to New York. The operative line in the prayer is: “Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred.”

Mattingly writes: “At first I thought that was a bad headline, but now I think that it does capture the essence of the text.” Readers’ responses show they are not sure for whom the pope will be praying — hate-filled Americans post-9/11 or foreigners who hate America. I put in my two cents, too, saying we understood the prayer to mean terrorists. My comment said:

As we read it, the structure of the prayer strongly implies that Benedict is referring to terrorists abroad. He mentions the victims right there at Ground Zero in the first section, expands that in the second section to their families and casts an even wider circle in the third section by recalling the victims at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. He then begins the fourth section by looking even further afield by mentioning “our violent world” and “the nations of the earth” before getting to “those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred”.

It is not the first time Benedict has spoken about terrorists this way. In his first meeting as pope with Muslims, during the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, he brought up the issue right away and thanked the Muslim leaders present for denouncing Islamist terrorism. He then said, according to the official Vatican translation: “If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.”

The original German text that he read out spoke of “das Hassgefühl” (the feeling of hate), which is closer to the term in the Ground Zero prayer than the weaker phrase “any trace of rancour” that the Vatican translator chose for the English text. There has been no 9/11-like attack in Germany in recent years, so he could not have been referring to hatred among relatives of victims there.

Several readers sent Reuters queries challenging the headline. As explained above, I have no problem with it.

Do you think the prayer is unclear? Here is the text:

Pope Benedict, 8 Sept 2007/Fabrizio Bensch“O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain.

“We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here — the heroic first-responders: our firefighters, police officers, emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel, along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy simply because their work or service brought them here on September 11, 2001.

“We ask you, in your compassion to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness.

“Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope. We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering. God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth.

“Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.

“Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.”

(text in the missal for the papal visit, on the Vatican website here )

7 comments

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Any good Catholic (and if the Pope is not a good Catholic then no one is) prays for the redemption – eternal salvation – of every human being since our God is a God of love and does not want anyone to be eternally lost/damned/in hell. But God also gives every human being free will which many people use to damn themselves to eternal torment in hell, i.e. those who fly planes into buildings or strap suicide bombs to their belts, etc., because they have already chosen who their God/Allah is — hatred, death and destruction. Hatred, death and destruction come not from a God of love, but from the devil. Any religion which advocates hatred, death and destruction likewise does not come from God or any of His prophets, but comes from the very pit of hell – from the devil himself.

Posted by Melody Sorrentino | Report as abusive

What is a good Catholic (and i don’t think the Cardinal rates as one ) last year he placed a “Gold ring on the finger of Cardinal O’Malley ,of boston ma. and O’Malley came back to boston abnd the Paparazzi were all over his finger ,he is sitting there with his finger in the air posing , The ring was engraved with the crucifixion ?gee i wonder what that might have cost in a world of “starving people ” . I am Catholic ,family of 12 siblings and i know poverty and i know abuse worse than physical by catholic parents ,mental abuse and Not sexual, but physical in a sense that iwas farmed out to work before my 13 th birthday for now that will suffice ,, But i would like to spank his little bottom (for Hatians abd people in Lawrence Ma. and all over the world … Sorry Neil Bush ,you and your Cardinal friend will never make it to heaven

I think the message here is clear, and it is not only consistent with the teachings of John Paul II, but it is also consistent with what Benedict has said in his first encyclical, and it is consistent with what Christ taught us.

We do not agree with the ideologies of those who carried out these horrific acts, nor does anyone condone it. We do not believe this is the doing of God nor is this something that God says we should do.

The message in this prayer is simple. Grant those affected closest guidance and consolation. While we hate the act itself, this is a call to stop the spread of the hatred that is the root of such evil to begin with.

It is not up to us to judge anyone, nor is it up to us to seek vengance against any people who commit such attrocoties. To do so or to act otherwise is not what Christ taught, nor is this what the Church teaches.

Personally, I fail to see what the big comotion is with what is truly an eloquent sounding prayer with a very simple message-just as Benedicts message has been since he took the place of John Paul II.

Posted by Joseph I. Szweda | Report as abusive

I also think the message here is clear but not amied at terrorists. In not so many words the prayer at Ground Zero reminds us to shun evil or evil will attack us. When the pope says “…Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred…” he is obviously reffering to homosexuals– not terrorists. He goes on to suggest “…God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events and other intrinsic moral evils….” This is a call to stop the spread of the hatred that is the root of such EVIL to begin with.

It is not up to us to judge anyone unless they are “intrinsically evi” like the homnosexuals, nor is it up to us to seek vengance against any people who commit such attrocoties. To do so or to act otherwise is not what Christ taught, nor is this what the Church teaches, but it is what Benedict teaches us. No, it isn’t as elcoquent as “God Hates Fags” but the pope knows what is evil.

Posted by Karen J. | Report as abusive

I find the Popes comments about trying to blame America for the sex abuse of his priests rather ironic. Maybe he should look at his whole system of enslaving his priests to be some kind of non sexual robot. God gave us sexual desires for a good reason. When practiced within marraige it is a most wonderful gift. When taken away by church law it becomes something other than what it was intended for. God’s word says a bishop should be the husband of one wife. Maybe he did that for a good reason. I think the Romanist ought to start looking at the fingers pointing back at them instead of trying to blame America on the ills they brought to this country from the Vatican.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

The Holy Father should concentrate on Church doctrine and matters of Faith and stay out of Politics. He should clean his own house before dictating to others.

Posted by JB | Report as abusive

Politics and Religion are intertwined. Read the Old Testament. Men who feared God were rulers of the day.
Because we are sinful does not mean that God isolates us. We are all God’s children and are loved even if we fall short of righteousness. The Pope’s prayer is for everyone! True to Jesus’s teachings, Christianity is for all. The New Testament teaches us that God does not favour anyone. May Love, Compassion and Peace reign!

Posted by Kay | Report as abusive