Accepting Differences at Ground Zero



I watched the televised broadcast of Pope Francis at Ground Zero. To say it was moving would be an understatement. I saw the pontiff embrace an imam and a rabbi, after they and others of varying faiths reflected on the senseless tragedy that had occurred on Sept. 11th fourteen years ago. They all gave messages of peace from the pulpit.

The prayer for those who died was beautifully sung by a Jewish cantor. His voice, wailing at times, expressed the pain that comes when those you love are inexplicably taken away before their time.

In his closing speech, Pope Francis reframed Ground Zero as no longer a place of death but now, a place of life.

A choir of New York’s young sang a song that had the refrain, “peace begins with me.”

Pope Francis, unlike his predecessors, has said that salvation is open to all, not just to those who embrace Catholicism.

I am no longer a devout Christian but one who likes to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To honour his teachings. To try to be as good as I can be. Pope Francis does walk in Jesus’s shoes. He embodies what I believe were Jesus’s teachings. He reaches out to all, regardless of their station in life or their belief, and shows each and every one the respect they deserve.

Regardless of what faith we follow, we all strive for peace in our hearts.

I was very religious growing up in the Orthodox faith. I was a Sunday School teacher. It all changed when I married a Catholic and our ceremony took place in my husband’s church.

I did not convert then, but the questioning began. Especially when the Catholic priest who was marrying us thought my husband shouldn’t marry me because I wasn’t Catholic. Since I was a good Christian at the time, I couldn’t understand his judgement. But I did understand his unhappiness and judgement came from his inability to assert his control and convert me to his belief. He couldn’t accept my different faith.

And isn’t that the same problem that exists today, as evidenced by all the religious wars? Whether it’s the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland, or the Jews and Arabs in the middle east, or the Islamic extremists and who they define as infidels?

Why can’t we accept each other’s differences and live with a common purpose of peace and good will toward all?

I’m still at a crossroads when it comes to faith, not knowing which way to turn. My grandmother was a deeply religious woman and I wish I could follow in her footsteps, but with science and all, I question too much.

But having said that, I marvel at those who do not and follow their faith, questions and all.

I’m in awe of Pope Francis, and hope and pray that his message will resonate for years to come. I hope and pray that those who are bent on fighting will pause and hear this great man and reflect on what they are doing and what they believe. Together, we can overcome.



6 thoughts on “Accepting Differences at Ground Zero

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Yes, Julia, thank God he’s a good man. I did not like the pope before him. This one, at least, acknowledges other faiths and talks about the environment, immigrants, the poor, and the greed in our world.

  1. All that's Jas

    Very well said. We all pray to the same God just in different ways. My parents are from different religions and they didn’t teach me to follow either, but to respect them all. As an adult, I was like you, in and out of church – Catholic, Baptist, Christian….finding my own belief. Last year, during our European trip we got to see and hear Pope Francis in Vatican, and although not planned, I feel blessed to have experienced it. Thanks for sharing at Thursday Favorite Things!

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Oh, weren’t you fortunate to hear the Pope at the Vatican. When we were in Jerusalem in 2009, we went to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I felt moved in both places. I would’ve loved to have also gone to the Temple of the Mount, but it was off limits at the time. Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing your experience.

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