Diplomats Pray for Sept. 11 Victims

MTU.S. Ambassador William Burns attending the Sept. 11 service Monday at St. Catherine the Great Martyr Church.
Candles flickered. The sweet smell of frankincense wafted through the vaulted chamber. And priests in embroidered white robes chanted prayers for the souls of those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.

The fifth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which left more than 3,000 dead, drew a small crowd of foreign dignitaries Monday to the St. Catherine the Great Martyr Church. Prayers were sung in English and old Church Slavonic.

"We pray for the repose of the souls of the servants of God who departed from their lives as a result of terrorist attacks and that they may be pardoned of their sins, voluntary and involuntary," the priests chanted.

U.S. Ambassador William Burns addressed the congregation after the prayers had been chanted, followed by Federation Council Deputy Speaker Alexander Torshin.

Sept. 11 is a day to pray for victims of all terrorist attacks, including those who died in the Beslan school siege two years ago, Burns said.

"Cooperation between Russia and the U.S. is very important not only for us, but for the whole world," Burns said, repeating every phrase in Russian and in English.

Torshin offered all Americans the Federation Council's condolences. Terrorists, he said, must be "spiritually disarmed."

"Victory will be ours!" he exclaimed at the end of his speech.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a statement read by a ministry representative, said Sept. 11 would forever remain a day of sorrow the world over and thanked religious leaders everywhere for taking a stand against terrorism.

Also on Monday, Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee who did not attend the church service, said the world community was doing an ineffective job battling terrorism, Interfax reported. The international community, Margelov said, was consumed by divisions that distracted from the task at hand.

Margelov's comments were similar to those of Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, who said Sunday that the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had left the world less secure, Interfax reported. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov on Sunday called for greater international cooperation in combating terrorism.

One attendee at Monday's church service said St. Catherine's was the only church where such a ceremony was held. Ann Mustard, an American living in Moscow who was in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, added that "we all want to do something. We remember those who died and those who were injured and are still suffering today."

Archimandrite Zacchaeus, the church dean, said Sept. 11 was the only day of the year when the entire church service could be heard in English. He said he was honored to conduct the service.

Father Nikolai Krechetov, archpriest of Moscow's Moskvoretsky District, noted that it just so happened that Sept. 11 was a day for fasting. "Maybe that's more than a coincidence, on the day of this tragic event," he said. The Orthodox Church marks the day as the day of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, considered to be Christianity's greatest prophet.

The service was also attended by ambassadors or embassy representatives from Canada, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Norway, Romania, Greece, Spain, Serbia and Ethiopia.

Following the service there was a bell-ringing ceremony outside the church. Father Zacchaeus rang a commemorative bell donated to the church by the U.S. Embassy in 2002 five times, one chime for each year that had passed since the attacks. All attendees were then invited to ring the bell.