Evil on an Enormous Scale

(September 11, 2001)

All of us will have vivid memories of this day and how we first received news of the terrorist attacks. My younger brother told me as I walked into the kitchen, after spending the night at his place. When he described the news – planes crashing into the World Trade Towers and Pentagon – I thought he was making it up. Even the pictures on television seemed at first like a computer simulation. But, unfortunately, they were real.

It is hard to grasp such evil - that fellow human beings could conceive and carry out those heinous acts. Although we daily experience small acts of deceit and hatred, it stuns us to witness it on such an enormous scale. The perpetrators obviously had great skill, organization, daring and idealism. How could they use their gifts for something so awful?

Those questions do not have ready answers. Rather they bring us face to face with the mystery of our existence. The fact so many came to Mass today indicates we realize that man, on his own, cannot provide the final explanation.

After the attacks, I talked by phone to a family in Peru who have relatives in the United States. When their four-year-old daughter saw the images on television, she asked, “Did my abuelito (grandfather) die?” He did not, but many grandparents – and parents – were murdered on Tuesday morning. We should pray for them, for their families, as well as for the leaders of our country and world. Following are some Scripture verses and prayers that may help:

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35

Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:8

We shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17

To you I lift up my soul, O Lord. Psalm 25:1

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Even though I walk in the dark valley,
I fear no evil; for you are at my side. Psalm 23:4

Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit. Psalm 31:5a

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Luke 23:42

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Acts 7:59

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
assist us in our last agony.

Prayer of Commendation:

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you,
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph and all the angels and saints.


In his Wednesday audience, Pope John Paul II made the following remarks:

I cannot begin this audience without expressing my profound sorrow at the terrorist attacks which yesterday brought death and destruction to America, causing thousands of victims and injuring countless people. To the President of the United States and to all American citizens I express my heartfelt sorrow. In the face of such unspeakable horror we cannot but be deeply disturbed. I add my voice to all the voices raised in these hours to express indignant condemnation, and I strongly reiterate that the ways of violence will never lead to genuine solutions to humanity´s problems.

Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. 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 the 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.


Homily A Response to Terrorism

Pope's Message to President Bush

Homily of Archbishop Brunett