Pope John Paul II and President George Bush in 2001. Wikimedia Commons

“Evil and Death Do Not Have the Final Say”

The Holy Father’s address at the General Audience, St Peter Square, September 12, 2001.
John Paul II

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.

With deeply felt sympathy I address myself to the beloved people of the United States in this moment of distress and consternation, when the courage of so many men and women of good will is being sorely tested. In a special way I reach out to the families of the dead and the injured, and assure them of my spiritual closeness. I entrust to the mercy of the Most High the helpless victims of this tragedy, for whom I offered Mass this morning, invoking upon them eternal rest. May God give courage to the survivors; may He sustain the rescue-workers and the many volunteers who are presently making an enormous effort to cope with such an immense emergency. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to join me in prayer for them.

Let us beg the Lord that the spiral of hatred and violence will not prevail. May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Mercy, fill the hearts of all with wise thoughts and peaceful intentions.

Prayer of the faithful
Brothers and sisters,
with great dismay in the face of the horror of destructive violence, but strong in the faith that has always guided our fathers, we turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the salvation of His people, and as trusting children we beseech Him to come to our aid in these days of mourning and innocent suffering.

1. For the Churches of the East and the West, and especially for the Church living in the United States of America, that, although prostrated by feelings of loss and grief, drawing inspiration from the Mother of Our Lord, a woman of strength beside the cross of her Son, they may nurture in their hearts desires for reconciliation and peace and work to build a civilization of love.

2. For all those who bear the name of Christians, that, in the sad events of a mankind full of misunderstanding and hatred, they may continue to be witnesses to the presence of God in history and the victory of Christ over death.

3. For the leaders of nations, that not allowing themselves to be dominated by hatred and the spirit of retaliation, they may do everything possible to keep weapons of destruction from sowing new hatred and new death and strive to bring light to the darkness of human affairs with works of peace.

4. For those who are in tears and grief at the violent death of their family and friends, that in this hour of suffering they may not let themselves be overcome by grief, desperation, and revenge but may continue to have faith in the victory of good over evil, of life over death, and may commit themselves to building a better world.

5. For the wounded and suffering because of senseless terrorist acts, that they may soon regain their stability and health, and in front of the gift of life may nurture in their hearts desires for construction, collaboration, and service to every form of life, free of rancor and vengeful feelings, and may become workers for justice and builders of peace.

6. For the brothers and sisters who met death in the madness of violence, that they may find in the peace of the Lord their certain joy and eternal life, and that their dying may not be in vain but the leavening for a new epoch of brotherhood and collaboration among the peoples.

O Lord Jesus,
remember our deceased and suffering brothers before Your Father. Remember us too and grant us to pray in Your own words:
Pater noster…

Almighty and merciful God,
those who sow discord cannot comprehend You,
those who love violence cannot welcome You:
look on our suffering human condition,
tried by ferocious acts of terror and death,
comfort Your children and open our hearts to hope,
so that our time
may yet know days of serenity and peace,
Through Christ Our Lord.