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After Attack, Worshipers Flock To Cathedral Where Kennedy's Funeral Held - 2001-09-14

For hundreds of worshipers in downtown Washington, D.C. on September 5, St. Matthews Cathedral was an oasis for prayer and reflection. Just a few blocks away from the church are reminders of the recent tragic events: flak-jacket-wearing soldiers walking alongside office workers; military "Humvee" vehicles parked at intersections; and the offices of Morgan Stanley financial services staff, whose 3,500 colleagues in New York City were in the World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed.

A large, black net was spread across the ceiling of St. Matthew's Cathedral, to catch stray debris from the church's ongoing restoration. It lent an additional somber note to the midday Mass, led by the Archbishop of the Washington Roman Catholic Archdiocese, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Cardinal McCarrick, who donated blood the previous evening to help the injured victims of the Pentagon and New York City disasters, told the gathering that the events touched him personally. "Many of you know people who have lost loved ones," he said. "One of my nephews is a fireman in New York who is missing. So we know these things. We feel these things. We worry about these things. Yet, the faith we have this tough, wonderful, strong faith we have that we must always hold on to tells us that God's judgement is always good and that God's love is always there. And we must have confidence in Him that He will bring all things right."

In his homily to the St. Matthew's congregation, Cardinal McCarrick said that as terrible as the loss of so many Americans was, the victims will find a new life after death. "The lesson is this: this world is not the one that lasts forever. Our lives here are not the end-all, the be-all of everything that we have. God has given us this time as a journey. " Monsignor Ron Jameson said the huge, red-brick St. Matthew's Cathedral has had a long tradition as a place of solace after national tragedies, including the 1963 funeral Mass of President John F. Kennedy following his assassination. "You see people just pouring in from the street, coming in for a few moments to pray and then join us at Mass. Certainly it's a notion that with such tragedy, we have to turn to our Creator, turn to the Lord in prayer.

"The fact that President Kennedy's funeral was held here at the cathedral still draws thousands of people a year. They remember. They remember what happened that day in Dallas. The cathedral itself has become a symbol of hope, of what has happened since then. And also a time to remember what happened that day." Father Jameson said that although the focus of their Mass was to pray for those who perished in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the congregation also paid tribute to others affected by the tragic events. "We want to remember first of all the families, the families of those that lost loved ones, families of those that were injured. We want to remember all of those who sacrificed so much yesterday, the firefighters who sacrificed their lives in order to try to recover the bodies. We want to remember those, so many of us, who are grieving for those who died, grieving for the families, grieving for our country, and even grieving as we wonder how could this tragedy have happened?" Monsignor Ron Jameson said he hopes the Washington service will help heal the wounds that so many feel, "We are confused; people express a sense of hopelessness. People express anger. And we have to get beyond that." Among those attending the Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral was Jean Fuller of Washington. Ms. Fuller said she was impressed that the church attracted such a large group of worshipers for a daytime, midweek service. "I think it's a wonderful thing that people can come to the church this way, after we've had a big catastrophe of one sort or another," she said. "For some, it takes more of a jolt than others to get them to church. As long as they get a wake up call once in a while, I guess, and realize...A lot of people feel they don't need God until there is a crisis."