Cardinal deplores 'false religion' of terrorists
posted on 08 July 2005
‘Their god is not recognisable to religious people’
The Archbishop of Westminster has this afternoon spoken of the need to stick firmly to peace to combat terrorism, while warning of the dangers of anger and scapegoating.
In a homily at the 5.30 Mass at Westminster Cathedral, he said history was not on the side of violence and terror. “If we stand firm, if we believe in peace, then terror will not succeed,” he told the congregation. “It will exhaust itself in time.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor returned early from Rome last night after hearing of the attacks. He brought with him a message from Pope Benedict XVI to the people of London, following terrorist attacks which left more than 50 dead and hundreds wounded.
Full text of homily follows. Check against delivery.
Homily preached by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at Westminster Cathedral, 8 July.
The attacks on London yesterday have brought home to us, as never before, the horror of September 11, Madrid, and Bali. It is easier to feel the agony of those we work with and live next door to. But it is easier, too, to feel anger and disgust at those who perpetrate evil.
These are days when we must be attentive to our reactions. We rightly feel pain, horror, confusion and anxiety. Evil has erupted at the heart of our city, at a moment when we are most vulnerable - when we are innocently going about our daily tasks. The knowledge that vulnerability and innocence can be exploited by evil can lead us to wish to be invulnerable. It can lead us to anger and vengeance. It can lead us to scapegoat entire sectors of the population. And that is exactly what yesterday’s acts were designed to bring about.
But it is precisely when we are confronted with evil that we must cling with greater determination to what is good. We must be compassionate and above all patient, because it is not we, but God, who is in charge of history. St Paul said “Do not be overcome by evil: but overcome evil with good” (Romans XII, 21).
The law of history is not on the side of the terrorists. The past is littered with the burned-out husks of attempts at bringing about political change through violence. Violence, as we know, breeds violence, and violence ultimately destroys itself. If we stand firm, if we believe in peace, then terror will not succeed; it will exhaust itself in time.
Yesterday brought havoc and tragedy and pain to the streets of London. But evil also summons forth good. Almost as soon as the wounds appeared in the heart of our capital there was healing: in the efficiency and care shown by the emergency services, in the calm response of London’s commuters, in the way that Londoners put their arms around each other, and nursed each other. In these countless small acts, undramatic acts, the terror was sucked out of terrorism. God was there, in the healing, in the compassion, in the patience. God may be mocked by acts of hate, but he is never defeated or reduced. God was there, among us, long before the terrorists struck; God was there, yesterday, tending to the wounded, and mourning the dead; God is here today, long after the terrorists have fled.
And because God was there, holding us, as always, in his hands, cradling us, we showed we could not be corroded. We showed that we are made according to God’s design, and that no amount of terror, however suddenly and brutally it strikes, can wipe that away.
The people who carried out these monstrous acts with chilling efficiency and forethought are believed to have acted in the name of religion. If so, it is not a religion recognisable to the religious people of this world. Who is their god? It is not the God who revealed himself to Moses and Jacob; nor the God who, in Jesus Christ, walked this earth and died and rose to save humanity; nor the God worshipped by the Muslim people, who is a God Almighty and Merciful. Who is the god of the men of hate? It is a false god; one projected from the darkest recesses of the human heart.
When Pope John Paul II brought together the world’s religious leaders to pray for peace in Assisi in 1986, and then again in 2002, he wanted to send a message to the world that the name of religion is peace, that God is blasphemed by war and violence. That message was made by bishops and cardinals and patriarchs, and by rabbis and imams and sadhus. The name of God is peace. Today I was happy to meet the leaders of other faiths here in Britain to proclaim our abhorrence of the events of yesterday. But even more to assert our solidarity together for the common good. And to work together for reconciliation and peace.
In the Gospel that we have just heard, Jesus exhorts us that our virtue must go deeper than the men of violence. In many ways it is a difficult text for us to hear on such a day, when we recall the great loss of life and the terrible injuries of those who suffer. Yet we know that it is also true that God can bring forth good from suffering. Jesus’s triumphing over the Cross shows us so. We look forward to that time when all violence is done away with through the restoration of the peace and reconciliation which only God can give.
So tonight we pray for the repose of the souls of those who died so tragically and those who have been injured, some dreadfully, and their families and their friends.