Amid calls for restraint in retaliation, millions gather to pray and pay homage

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The Independent Online

Millions of people attended religious services yesterday as the world paused to reflect on the horrific death toll from the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Millions of people attended special religious services yesterday to reflect on the horrific death toll from the terrorist attacks on the United States.

As President George Bush considered how America should retaliate against the perpetrators, church leaders called for restraint to prevent the deaths of thousands more innocent victims.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his family attended a service at Westminster Cathedral in central London last night in memory of the victims of the attacks.

The Catholic cathedral's Chapel of the Holy Souls has been dedicated to the victims of the tragedy and displays a Stars and Stripes flag. Scores of people have lit candles in the chapel for lost or missing loved ones.

In the entrance to the cathedral there is a message from the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, which reads: "These tragic events in New York and Washington have shocked us all. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the dead and injured. I am asking that we remember in our prayers all those who have died, those who were injured and those who are grieving, as well as those who have been left to cope with the aftermath."

A multifaith vigil of prayer and reflection was held at Westminster Abbey. The Duke and Duchess of York and the American ambassador to Britain, William Farish, joined hundreds for a service of "hope and healing" at the American Church in London. The size of the congregation meant several hundred more had to pray outside on the pavement.

The Rev Dr Stephen Rettenmayer told the congregation that he hoped the American leadership would act beyond a "higher standard than uncontrolled rage that could lead to even more innocent suffering and loss of life".

Since the outrages last Tuesday, more than 2,000 people have visited the church in central London, set up for the American expatriate community more than 30 years ago. Many of the congregation lined up yesterday to sign books of condolence. Deborah Zucker, a churchgoer, said after the service: "Everybody's just looking to be next to each other to get through this and to heal, and rise from the ashes."

Thousands of members of Britain's 600,000-strong Sikh community said prayers at the National Sikh Convention at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Blakenhall, Wolverhampton. They also prayed for Sikhs caught up in a backlash against ethnic minorities provoked by the atrocities.

In Italy, Pope John Paul II said he was "heartbroken" at the loss of life from the attack. Before he arrived for a service at Frosinone, near Rome, a choir sang "Blowin' in the Wind" and waved an American flag. "To all the children of this great nation, I direct my heartbroken and shared thoughts," he said to applause from the large crowd. He also said the Virgin Mary "supports those families who are particularly tried, and helps all to resist the temptation of hate and violence and to commit themselves to the service of justice and peace".

John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, joined a congregation at a church in Sydney during a day of mourning. The victims include almost 70 Australians still missing from the World Trade Centre.

In the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Cardinal Jaime Sin led a Mass at Manila Cathedral to pray for the victims. Two Filipinos have been confirmed among the dead and several are missing.

Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the head of Lebanon's Maronite Church, held a special Mass in the town of Jounieh. He condemned the "heinous crime" against the United States and called for harsh punishment against those behind it.

Countless acts of remembrance were also played out at major arts, cultural and sporting events around the globe. Every professional football match in Britain over the weekend was preceded by a minute's silence. The start of yesterday's Serie A games in Italy were put back by 15 minutes to honour the dead.

Michael Schumacher, the Formula One world champion from Germany, drove his Ferrari with no advertising and a black nose cone at yesterday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Jaguar cars also blacked out their leaping cat logos in a mark of respect.

Runners at the Great North Run on Tyneside, the world's biggest half-marathon, held a minute's silence before the start of the race.