January 3, 2002

A Letter From the Cardinal

To the Faithful of the Archdiocese

Dear Friends in the Lord:

The Christmas season is ordinarily a time in which to reflect on the events of the year that is drawing to a close. This Christmas season is no exception. Perhaps more than ever before in recent history, we feel a need to look back over what has happened to us. The horrendous events of Sept. 11 have brought us to our knees. We are mourning the loss of loved ones. Families are hurting. We are all examining our lives, our hopes and our relationships with the Lord and with one another. Moreover, keenly aware that we are a nation at war, we wonder and worry about the future. There is so much about which to reflect, ponder and pray.

Into this somber, reflective world comes the Christ Child. The first reading for Christmas Midnight Mass proclaims that "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." Indeed, as we shift our gaze to the humble cave in the dark of the first Christmas night, we are struck not by the bleakness of the surroundings, but rather by the simple, joyous splendor of the infant in the manger, the Word Made Flesh and the Light of the World.

Similarly, as we approach this particularly troubling Christmas of the year 2001, our thoughts go out to the men and women who, in ways both dramatic and hidden, have brought the radiance of Jesus Christ into the darkness of Ground Zero and, indeed, into so much of our beloved Greater New York. They were police officers, firefighters, emergency workers, healthcare professionals and volunteers of all kinds. They were bereavement counselors and funeral directors. They were clergy, religious and laity whose care for and visits to sorrowing family and friends assured all who were hurting that they were not alone.

So many of our people–men, women and children–gave generously of their time and resources. So many of our priests officiated at funerals and memorials day after day and, as well, spent long hours at morgues, making sure that the mortal remains of all victims were blessed, prayed over and held sacred. And so many, through the powerful force of their prayers, helped light the darkness by lifting our weary, broken hearts to God. Because of all this, we who walked in darkness have seen a great light–the light of our newborn Lord and Saviour. For this we are, and must always be, truly and deeply grateful.

Into this somber and sobering reality of Christmas 2001, the light of Christ has come. As we offer our Masses and prayers in this holy season, I ask you to join me in thanking the Lord for all of the gallant, heroic and loving citizens of our community who have made the light of Christmas shine with greater brilliance in our midst. In addition, I urge you to keep in your prayers in a very special way those who were killed, those who were injured and those who have been deeply touched by our tragedy. Together, we need to make this Christmas a time of great holiness, a time in which we lift our hearts to God, a time in which we beg His care and totally trust in His love.

Edward Cardinal Egan

Archbishop of New York