Obama says 'We will finish the race' at interfaith memorial

(Photo: Reuters / Brian Snyder)U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an interfaith memorial service for the victims of the bombing at the Boston Marathon at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2013.

President Barack Obama told religious and civic leaders along with more than 2,000 people gathered an interfaith service on Thursday that '[w]e will finish the race," saying the deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line "does not stop us."

The interfaith memorial at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross in south Boston also included participation and reflections by local Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders as well as the city's mayor and the Massachusetts's governor.

Monday's attacks killed three people and injured more than 170. Authorities say one man suspected of carrying out the attacks was killed in a shootout with police in the Thursday pre-dawn hours in Boston while the second suspect – his brother - is being pursued.

Scripture tells us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us," President Obama said at the start of his message. Later, he alluded to a widely distributed photo of an elderly runner who fell after one of the Monday blasts.

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"[W]e may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we'll pick ourselves up. We'll keep going. We will finish the race," he said. "This doesn't stop us."

The President also focused on the actions of people on the ground, saying their assistance in a time of distress reflected biblical values.

"Scripture teaches us, 'God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.' And that's the spirit you've displayed in recent days," he said.

He noted the discipline of emergency personnel running toward explosions to treat the wounded, the "real power" shown by those attending to the carnage, and spoke of Bostonians who helped shelter and transport stranded runners after the blast.

"That's love," he said, adding that prayers were with the families of those killed and also with the many who were severely injured.

"We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again," he said.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who leads the Archdiocese of Boston said Pope Francis sent a message expressing sympathy and promising prayers.

He said "the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good, working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come."

The Cardinal said that "[l]ike every tragedy, Monday's events are a challenge and an opportunity for us to work together with a renewed spirit of determination and solidarity and with the firm conviction that love is stronger than death."

Nasser Wedaddy, chair of the New England Interfaith Council and civil rights outreach director for the American Islamic Congress said Monday's attacks had "shocked and horrified us but has brought us together."

He told of his experience as a boy in Damascus, Syria where at age 7 he "experienced the terror" of a car bomb exploding nearby on his way to school. He said the feelings of anger and fear he felt then returned during the Monday bombings.

He cited a passage from the Qur'an which he said was inspired by Jewish tradition.

"[W]hoever kills a soul, it is as if he killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved all of mankind," he said.

"Heal the wounds of those hurt last Monday and heal the wounds of all Bostonians. We are hurting," he prayed.

"United by faith and something greater than ourselves, we people of Boston, with your blessing, dedicate ourselves to the great task before us. To heal, to rebuild, and to serve once again as a shining city on the hill.

The Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, a senior minister of the United Church of Christ said she had a view from the tower of the Old South Church near the finish line.

She says she saw people running toward the explosions, mayhem and chaos of the attacks, "making of their own bodies sacraments of mercy."

She saw others helping people keep warm, feed others and offer directions.

"We are shaken, but we are not forsaken. Another's hate will not make of us haters. Another's cruelty will only redouble our mercy," she said.

Rabbi Ronne Friedman, senior rabbi at Temple of Israel thanked civic leaders for their presence at the memorial.

He cited the Psalms 147:3 where God is depicted as a "healer of the broken hearted, and binder of their wounds."

He prayed that a "sense of life's goodness and purpose" could be restored to those suffering and in grief.

"Fill their hearts and ours with reverence and with love that we might turn to you again with hearts restored to wholeness, hands committed to the re-creation of well-being and peace," he said.

Other speakers included Rev. Robert Miranda, senior pastor of the evangelical Congregacion de Juda, Roxbury, Bishop John M. Borders III, senior pastor of Morningstar Baptist Church, Mattapan, Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, Brookline, Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick.

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