Religions put aside differences Catholic church hosts interfaith prayer service

September 13, 2001 | Oklahoman, The (Oklahoma City, OK) Author/Byline: Bobby Ross Jr.; Religion Editor | Page: 2-A | Section: NEWS 512 Words

Their hearts broken but their faith strong, Oklahoma religious leaders – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – came together Wednesday for an interfaith prayer service at St. Joseph Old Cathedral.

The Most Rev. Eusebius Beltran, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Oklahoma City, described the cathedral – the closest church to the 1995 bombing site – as sacred ground.

“This building was totally destroyed and had to be rebuilt,” Beltran said. “It was built back as a sign of faith and remembrance of those people who were killed here at the site of the Murrah Building.”

Such a setting was appropriate, he said, as several hundred Oklahomans of various faiths joined “to mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters in New York and Washington, D.C.”

With Gov. Frank Keating and first lady Cathy Keating seated on the front row, clergy prayed for strength and hope for America.

The crowd included bottle-sucking babies, nuns in traditional attire and gray-haired grandmothers, as well as a group from Mount St. Mary High School, an Oklahoma City parochial school.

“I’m just devastated,” said student Glen Wright, 17, reflecting the mood of many.

Imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City recalled the story of Joseph, the boy with a coat of many colors.

Despite his brothers selling him into slavery, Joseph became a great leader, Webb said.

“We understand that no matter how great the test, no matter how desperate things seem, truth, justice and God’s ultimate power will shine and radiate in the hearts of His chosen servants,” Webb said. “And His light will shine forth and dispel the shadows of sin, transgression and immorality.”

Rabbi Richard Marcovitz of Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City talked about his personal trauma.

The youngest of his five children – Elizabeth, 18 – just began her freshman year at New York University. The Casady School graduate lives about a mile from the World Trade Center towers.

“She saw the smoke out of her residence hall,” Marcovitz said after the service.

“She was taking pictures of the World Trade Center. She turned around and wanted to take another one and, ‘Zap!’ There was no more World Trade Center.”

Others speaking at the service included the Rev. Rita Newton, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor who is executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches; Dr. George Cooper, representing the Baha’i community; Elder Carolyn Stephens, executive presbyter of the Indian Nations Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and the Rev. Robert Elliott, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma City.Caption: Photo 1: LEFT: A procession enters St. Joseph Old Cathedral in Oklahoma City at noon Wednesday for an interfaith prayer service in the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on the East Coast. Oklahoma religious leaders – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – participated in one of the many services across the city. Photo 2: LEFT: The Most Rev. Eusebius Beltran, archbishop of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, leads a prayer Wednesday at St. Joseph Old Cathedral during a service for victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. – STAFF PHOTOS BY JIM BECKEL

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