Message to Canadian Political Leaders and the People of God from the Catholic Bishops of Canada

Sunday, September 23 2001

The tragically violent events of 11 September 2001 have touched everyone deeply. In dioceses and parishes across the country, as well as by interviews and letters at the national and regional levels, we the Catholic Bishops of Canada have expressed our deepest condolences, fervent prayers and heartfelt solidarity for those personally and directly affected by these terrorist attacks.

We pray that today’s meeting of our Prime Minister and U.S. President George W. Bush will further the links of solidarity among our neighbouring peoples in a common search for international peace with justice for all.

In order to face the evil in our world, our faith calls us to do all in a spirit of mercy and forgiveness; to be present to those who have suffered, and to help find a way forward for those who live in fear and dread of an uncertain future.

The persons responsible for these attacks must be brought to justice in full accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. In order to rebuild the human community, rather than rend it further asunder with overwhelming and indiscriminate violence, there needs to be prudence and restraint in how our country responds. In this regard, we commend the leadership of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who on 17 September committed Canada to undertake only those actions that are “guided by a spirit of wisdom and perseverance, by our values and our way of life”.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recall the words of Pope John Paul II in his 1999 message to the Church in America, that “the fundamental rights of the human person are inscribed in human nature itself, … are willed by God and therefore call for universal observance.”

In this same spirit, as the Catholic Bishops of Canada, we call upon all citizens and leaders to continue our country’s strong tradition of welcoming refugees who themselves are often victims of terrorism in other parts of the world, and to refrain from directing any feelings of anger at the peoples of any particular nation or faith community. We reaffirm the respect that we hold toward Islam and its adherents, and we deeply deplore all crimes of hate directed toward Arab people. There is all the more reason to continue our efforts at interfaith dialogue in this particularly sensitive moment.

The task now before Canadian society is similar to the challenge faced by the early Christian community in Rome to whom Saint Paul wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12.21). Let us be peacemakers.