Sermon at First Anniversary Mass in Remembrance of the Victims of the London Bombings


Westminster Cathedral

7th July 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

All over London and beyond, today is a day of remembrance, of extraordinary sorrow, and of silence. The 7th July last year was a day on which we all experienced a sense of shock, of unbelief that such a thing, though warned against, had actually happened. It was only in the succeeding days that I was able to perceive, in just a small way, something of the pain and the horror of those most afflicted by the terrorist bombings. I remember encountering the quiet, uncomprehending grief of the Cassidy family who lost their only son, Ciaran, a grief mirrored in that of other families I met a few months later and who had lost their loved ones.

And I remember the agony and the eloquence of Marie Fatayi-Williams, with her husband Alan and her family. She, more than anyone, expressed for countless millions the anguish and the pain of that time. Her words express the cry of every mother, of every person who had suffered cruelty and loss in such a manner. “I cry out for women, for mothers the world over, north, south, east and west, whose hearts are bleeding as they watch helplessly over the unnecessary deaths of their children for a cause they do not know or understand, “ she said “I cry out from the depths of my heart to the perpetrators of this pain …………. Peace is the fruit of love, not hatred and violence”.

These words have touched the hearts and minds of many. They are an eloquent testament to her love for her son, Anthony, and her conviction that his death will not be in vain. They remind all of us that God can bring good even out of this terrible evil. He can help us to bring about justice, understanding, tolerance, respect for human life and human dignity and, above all, peace in the world.

I was often asked, during those days that followed the attacks that eternal question, nearly impossible to answer: “Why?” Why does God - if you believe in Him - why does He allow such meaningless suffering and agony and death to happen? When asked that question, Why? we answer in the words of the Psalmist, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, let my cry come to Thee. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me, answer me speedily in the day when I call” (Ps.76).

I take comfort from the fact that when Jesus Christ, who is our Saviour died, he did so – the New Testament tells us – with a loud cry. It can be seen as a cry of indignation, a cry of pain, but at the same time a cry of hope for reconciliation and for peace. Forgiveness is not easy. The death of Jesus reminds us of this. His mother, Mary, draws close to those who have lost a loved one. In their pain they find a co-sufferer in their silent anguish, reaching out to them in their suffering and their struggle, seeking to bring them her comfort and her peace. But we also believe that Jesus was God and so his cry at the time of his death is a cry from the very heart of God. Because God is infinite, in Jesus, he is infinitely vulnerable. It is not that God is distant from our anguish and our grief and our pain, but closer than we can ever imagine.

Jesus did not seek his death, but offered himself in total love for all humankind. In this he brought us both meaning and hope. Only after his Resurrection did the disciples of Jesus understand that our salvation was achieved through the radical love of his intense human suffering, and it can only become real if it is a living remembrance amongst us. As long as there are people who remember that love, remember that suffering, and unite it to their own suffering and their own loss and their own humiliation and pain, there can be hope for our world.

The readings of today are suffused with that hope. “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light”, the prophet says, “on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone” (Is.9.1). And again, St. Paul reminds us, “No need to worry ……….. keep doing all the things that you have learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Phil.4.6). And most profoundly of all, from our Lord Jesus Christ we hear these words: “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (Jn. 14:26) The light that shines in the darkness is the light of reconciliation and peace, won for us by Jesus and lived in the memory and the witness of his disciples here on earth.

Today I remember and give thanks to God for all the Londoners who, in one way or another, have not allowed this terrible atrocity to deter them from continuing their lives in a spirit of mutual tolerance, respect, and a spirit of service to others. On this day we recall what a marvellous thing it is to belong to this great international city, with peoples from all corners of the globe living side by side and, on the whole, respecting and rejoicing in one another’s diversity.

I give thanks to God, and pray for all the victims of the disaster of this day a year ago, and for their families and their friends, and all those who suffered in any way by bereavement or terrible injury. How edified I was to meet one of the victims of grievous injury of the 7th July. Her name is Gillian Hicks and, like many others, she came to London to find work and build a future life. She had lost both her legs in one of the blasts. She came to see me just before her wedding in December with her husband-to-be, and I was struck by her remarkable strength of character, and even cheerfulness. She has continued to express her thanks for those who helped her. Her bravery and her determination to live life with no bitterness in her heart have been an inspiration to many.

But, above all today, I remember the words on the tombstone of Anthony Fatayi-Williams: “To live in the hearts of those that love you is to live forever”. His mother and family loved him so much and now are dedicating themselves to perpetuating his memory in the pursuit of reconciliation and of peace. Here is hope for a new millennium. Here is the light that shines in the darkness. Here is something of the peace that the world cannot give. How right that on the foot slab of his tomb should be engraved the words of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is sadness and hatred let me sow joy and love. Where there is injury, pardon, for it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in giving that we receive, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”