Religious leaders offer prayers to comfort Americans

Religious leaders around the country prayed for peace among nations and faiths Wednesday as they mourned the thousands killed Sept. 11 and urged restraint in hunting down those responsible.

In Detroit, about 30 religious leaders from different denominations formed what they called a prayer caravan, stopping at a mosque, a synagogue, a Presbyterian church and an Episcopal cathedral.

In St. Louis, a rabbi, an imam and a Roman Catholic archbishop shared the stage with civic leaders. "Let not the atrocities of a few divide us," said Imam Waheed Rana of the St. Louis Islamic Foundation.

From the Vatican, Pope John Paul II said that although nothing justified the attacks, the world must end injustices that turn hatred to violence.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in Washington that people of faith should form "a holy and unshakable coalition for peace."

A few blocks from ground zero, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, the world Anglican leader, spoke at Trinity Church to urge Americans to remain connected to the world despite their vulnerability and to consider how their actions affect other nations.

"The United States, with its immense potential to make a difference in the world, faces the daunting challenge of wielding power and influence with others in ways that do justice," Carey said.

Hundreds of religious services were held nationwide to remember the victims of the suicide hijackings that struck New York, Pennsylvania and the Washington area. Worshippers wept as church bells tolled and the names of victims were read from altars.

At the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, people emerged from a memorial service and sat on the church steps, staring ahead and crying.

"I had to be someplace where I could put my mind at ease and be someplace where there is a chance for hope," said Tammy Bell, who wore an "I Love NY" T-shirt to the cathedral service.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan joined religious leaders of a dozen faiths at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan and recalled how he had been in the same church two days after the attacks.

'Needed everyone to pray'

"We needed to reach out to each other, to share our grief and we needed everyone to pray together. We still do today," Annan said.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, leading prayers at Washington's National Cathedral, called the attacks "an outrage of unspeakable horror and evil."

Many clergy gave sermons supporting Islam and demanding fair treatment for American Muslims. Some U.S. Muslim charities and mosques have been raided, and many Muslims have been detained indefinitely as federal agents search for links to terrorists.

The Rev. John Marsh, a Unitarian Universalist minister, addressed an interfaith ceremony at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, saying, "We pray for safety, but we also pray for those profiled and deported since Sept. 11."

About 35 religious and civic leaders gathered at the Hillel Jewish Student Center at the University of Cincinnati at midnight for personal reflection, music and a reading of the names of the victims.

Seeking solace

Church and synagogue attendance increased dramatically after last Sept. 11 but soon returned to normal. Clergy nationwide were preparing for another increase as Americans sought solace on the anniversary of the attacks.

Muslims were organizing interfaith services and open houses at mosques nationwide. The Fiqh Council of North America, a supreme court of Islamic scholars who interpret religious law, issued a statement just before the anniversary condemning the attacks as violations of Muslim teachings.