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British Religious Groups Offer Prayers, Pledge Solidarity

(Soundbite of bells tolling)

IVAN WATSON reporting:

The bells rang at St. Pancras Parish Church, much as they do every Sunday morning. But today, worshipers were also greeted by bouquets of flowers lining the church's front steps.

(Soundbite of bells tolling)

WATSON: Part of the street here was still roped off by police who continue to investigate nearby Tavistock Square, where one of four terrorist bombs on Thursday blew up a double-decker bus, killing 13 people. As a result, this morning's Mass at St. Pancras was a memorial for the people killed and injured in the attacks.

(Soundbite of Mass)

Unidentified Choir #1: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

WATSON: Those prayers were echoed across town at the Church of St. Martin's-in-the-Field.

Unidentified Woman: God of life and death, we pray for those who lost their lives in the bombings here in London on Thursday, for their families and for those who support them as they seek to come to terms with loss.

WATSON: At church after church, clergymen struggled to explain the shock and horror of the attacks to their congregations. At St. Martin's, Bishop Richard Chartres saw hope amid the indiscriminate violence.

Bishop RICHARD CHARTRES (Church of St. Martin's-in-the-Field): The events of Thursday were a sin against God and against all decent human feelings. But in the midst of the darkness, the way in which the emergency services went into action so promptly, with such great skill, courage and humanity, and the way in which ordinary Londoners coped was another shining light.

WATSON: More than a thousand people gathered for a "Requiem" Mass in the cavernous Westminster Cathedral.

(Soundbite of Mass)

Unidentified Choir #2: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

WATSON: In a sermon there, a priest called for unity and dialogue between different races and faiths. It was an obvious message for Londoners not to blame Britain's large Muslim population for what many suspect was the act of Islamist extremists. In a subsequent prayer, worshipers prayed not only for the victims, but also for the souls of those who organized the attacks.

(Soundbite of Mass)

Group of People: (In unison) Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is...

WATSON: After the service, a white-haired woman named Nora Simms(ph) said she was happy with the message of the sermon.

Mrs. NORA SIMMS: I think it's a very good message, the fact that we mustn't start to take it out on people who are Muslims just because they're Muslims.

WATSON: Simm's husband Douglas(ph) said the couple had ignored the fears of some of their friends and traveled from the town of Chester to London to participate in a commemoration today of the 60-year anniversary of the end of World War II.

Mr. DOUGLAS SIMM: They're not gonna frighten us. No, we're gonna carry on as we do in England. We'll carry on. We're not gonna be intimidated by a few fanatics.

WATSON: One of the people at Westminster Cathedral was Jarrod Munsonberg(ph), who was dressed in a yarmulke and traditional clothes of a devout Jew. He said he came to the cathedral to help send a message of peace and unity.

Mr. JARROD MUNSONBERG: That's why I was here today, because of the bombing. It really upset me. And they say they do it in God's name. I don't know. That's the world we live in.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.