Anglican churches unite in prayer as terror hits Spain

March 12, 2004

A devastating bomb attack March 11 at Madrid’s Atocha commuter railway station, leaving nearly 200 dead and hundreds more injured, has generated a plethora of statements and messages of condolence from Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide wanting to offer their prayers and support to those caught up in the midst of turmoil.

The attack is being dubbed "Spain's 9/11."

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold said that "such violence creates a climate of fear and undermines the peace that God in Christ so deeply wills for this world, for which he gave his own life."

He added, "My prayers are with all those who have suffered in the aftermath of the bombings in Madrid and to all those in other places who continue to suffer the consequences of violence in our broken world."

'Strongest disgust'

On behalf of the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church--which was fully integrated into the Anglican Communion in 1980--the Rt. Rev. Carlos López Lozano, Bishop in Madrid, sent a message stating his "strongest disgust" of the terrorist acts and offering "total support" to the families of the victims, asking that "the Lord be with them in their deep pain and sorrow."

The Rev. Patrick Mauney, director of Anglican and Global Relations, wrote to López saying that "our hearts go out to you in your agony over the terrible crime committed yesterday." He added, "Those of us in New York on 9/11 remember still the shock and horror of that day. I remember too your immediate and comforting words of solidarity with us on 9/11. We here in Anglican and Global Relations at the Episcopal Church Center stand with you and your people in grief and in prayer for a reconciled global community--a true resurrection."

Churches in Europe express concern

In a letter to the Embassy Church of St. George, Madrid, the Bishops of the Diocese in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell and David Hamid, conveyed their assurance of prayers and those of the diocese. "The people of our diocese would want you to know that you are in their hearts and prayers at this time. We join with all people of good will in condemning this act of terrorism," the letter stated. "We pray for all the victims and for those who minister to the bereaved and injured. Above all we pray that God, who brought light out of darkness, will bring comfort and assurance to your city and people, that his way be known upon earth and his saving peace among all nations."

Among the scores of people sending prayers and condolences was Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, who said, "The bombing in the station of Atocha has caused great shock and many are deeply saddened. Our prayers go with you."

US missionary sees desire to help

Gail White, a missionary from St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Lisbon Falls, Maine, working for the South American Missionary Society (SAMS) in Madrid, is no stranger to disaster and tragedy, having previously served as a SAMS missionary in the Diocese of Honduras when Hurricane Mitch devastated much of that country in 1998.

White, who met with Bishop Chilton Knudsen of Maine and Bishop López while she was on sabbatical leave last month, said in an email that the reaction and response of the vast majority of people, in response to the horrendous suffering and pain, was one of "a love-filled unity and a desire to help in the most insignificant ways."

She spoke about some of the graphic realities that families of the victims will experience in the days ahead, explaining that the only way many will be identified is through DNA samples. "All of the bodies have been moved to one site," she said. "The families of the dead or thought to be dead are all sent to a common site to give and receive as much information as possible."

A plea issued on the day of the attack called for help to minister with the families of the victims, specifically asking for church workers, pastors, teachers or people who had experienced a catastrophe in a helping sort of way..

As White fits this criteria, López asked her to accompany him and his wife to respond to the plea for help. "As we arrived, we realized that the response was overwhelming," White said. "By the time we reached the door for volunteers, they were thanking all of us for the concern and desire to help but they already had all the volunteers they needed. The hospitals have requested that no more people come to give blood because they have all they can handle."

At noon the next day, a period of silence was observed in unity with all of Spain. White explained that this is one of those times in life where to “pray without ceasing” is the best anyone can do. "At this point many of us feel useless.... Prayer is all we can do and the most we can do."