What does Benedict’s Ground Zero prayer actually say?
There 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:
“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 )