BOSTON -- Boston’s Catholic archbishop marked the city’s renewed sense of community after the marathon bombings but warned of the “culture of death” that led to the tragedy, calling on the faithful to “build a civilization of love.”
At the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley offered Sunday’s Mass, which was attended by the city’s police commissioner, “for the repose of the souls” of those who died as a result of Monday’s bombing and the manhunt for its alleged perpetrators.
In his homily, O’Malley said it was difficult to understand “what demons were operative” in the minds of brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or their politics “or the perversion of their religion.”
“It was amazing to witness, however, how much goodness and generosity were evidenced in our community as a result of this tragedy,” he said. “We have certainly experienced a surge in civic awareness, and a sense of community as a result of the tragedy this week. Our challenge is to keep this spirit of community alive going forward. As people of faith we must commit ourselves to the task of community building.”
After reflecting on aspects of the lives of the Tsarnaev brothers that have been reported, O’Malley said that the “individualism and alienation of our age has spawned a culture of death.”
He decried actions that “have coarsened us and made us more insensitive to the pain and suffering of others,” citing abortion as “just one indication of how human life has been devalued,” as well as violence in entertainment. He also chastised Congress for its inability to pass stricter gun control laws, calling it “emblematic of the pathology of our violent culture.”
“It is only a culture of life and an ethic of love that can rescue us from the senseless violence that inflicts so much suffering on society,” he said.
O’Malley also told hundreds who attended the 11:30 a.m. service that they should be people “of reconciliation, not revenge,” and that the Tsarnaevs’ alleged crimes should not be justification for prejudice against Muslims and immigrants.
Speaking with reporters after the Mass, O’Malley said he would oppose the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is now hospitalized after a standoff with police that ended in his capture Friday night.
“Forgiveness does not mean that we do not realize the heinousness of the crime. But in our own hearts when we are unable to forgive we make ourselves a victim of our own hatred,” he said. “Obviously as a Catholic I oppose the death penalty, which I think is one further manifestation of the culture of death in our midst.”
Sunday’s service comes as the city attempts to return to a more familiar routine at the end of a tumultuous week.
“I think that we will,” said Deborah Spirio, who was just a half mile short of the marathon finish line Monday when the first bomb detonated. “The words ‘Boston Strong’ are true. I’ve been a Bostonian my whole life, and it makes me feel proud to be part of it. But also very sad to know that we lived with terrorists among us. But I guess that’s the reality today.”
It will be particularly difficult for first responders, said Richard Paris, president of the Boston Firefighters Union Local 718, who attended the service with his family.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about the police officer from MIT today, and the three victims,” he said. Photos of each were displayed to the left of the cathedral’s main altar.
Paris said it was important to come together today in prayer, not just for the victims but for those who are still injured.
“We see a lot of tragedy, death and destruction. Firefighters, police and EMS – we train hard for this. We never thought it would happen. … [But] the city of Boston stuck together that day and it made us stronger. They’re not going to defeat us.”