National memorial service held on anniversary of Manchester Arena bombing

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York (R) greets Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrives to attend The Manchester Arena National Service of Commemoration at Manchester Cathedral in central Manchester, Britain May 22, 2018. Paul Ellis/Pool via Reuters -

The 22 people who died when a bomb exploded at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester last year were remembered today in a sombre service in Manchester Cathedral. The national commemoration was attended by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and by Prince William and senior politicians across the political divide, including Prime Minister Theresa May. The service – held a year after the explosion – was relayed to other cathedrals, including York Minster, the Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool, and the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland cathedral in Glasgow; and was also shown on large outdoor screens in the city.

Speaking in advance of this afternoon’s service, Archbishop Sentamu said that he would be at the service “standing alongside the Bishop of Manchester and many other leaders from a great city in shared grief at the loss of so many young lives.”

He continued: “We will stand together in shared solidarity and commitment to peace and the wellbeing of all. This is a time for communities to hold together, to care for one another, to respect the privacy of those carrying this grief, and to hold on to the truth that: ‘Love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death.’ May God give us his peace and blessing.”

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in a foyer of the Manchester Arena just after 10.30 pm on May 22, 2017 as thousands of people were leaving Grande’s concert. The 24-year-old singer is very popular amongst young people and 10 of those killed were under the age of 20: the youngest victim was eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos. The oldest was a 51-year-old woman. More than 800 people were injured.

A photo released by the family of Saffie Rose Roussos, shown here at eight years old. She was the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena bombing.

Admission to this afternoon’s service was by invitation only. The cathedral itself will open to the public this evening for those who want to light a candle and have quiet time. There will be a formal one minute silence at 10.31 pm – the time of last year’s bomb.

At this afternoon’s service, the Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, told the congregation: “Those lost, and their loved ones, will forever be in the hearts of the people of Manchester. And so, I pray eternal blessings on you as together we now remember those lost to us one year ago.”

Prayers were said by Hindu, Muslim and Sikh representatives; and Rabbi Warren Elf said prayers adapted from Yizkor, the Jewish memorial prayers. “Death has failed,” he said. “You cannot inflict oblivion or eclipse existence on those who were life of our life. They live and move with us and in us in spheres beyond our dominium. Blessed are you, eternal God, who enable your children to remember.”

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, delivered a reading from 1 Corinthians 13.

In his sermon, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said: “Today we come together to go back to the heart of the tragedy. We come together with those who are still suffering its effects most keenly. We come together to assure them of the constancy of our care.”

He added: “It is very appropriate that we gather in this cathedral. First, because it stands in honour of a God who is himself constant and faithful; of the most negative aspects of our society is that whilst we sometimes overwhelm people with care and support in the immediate aftermath of injury or loss, we then withdraw – our interest taken off in other directions.

“Too often, just a few months on from an horrific event, those still feeling the pain are left feeling unsupported. Some are even made to feel guilty at not having got over it as rapidly as the rest of us would find comfortable.

“This cathedral reminds us that God isn’t like that. It proclaims a God whose love never ceases; whose compassion never fails. God has no timetable for our recovery from tragedy. There is no date after which he expects us to have pulled ourselves together. He knows that the hurt we experience can last a lifetime. He is always ready to see our tears, to hear our cries, and to whisper words of comfort.”

Elsewhere, the Diocese of Manchester released a video of the city’s Archdeacon, Karen Lund, reciting a prayer based on the acrostic Manchester, “for the lives lost a year ago today.”

A flower festival is being held in St Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre. The church is set in a square that became the focal point for the nation’s grief: 300,000 floral tributes were laid there in the days following the bomb. The Spirit of Manchester flower festival opened yesterday (Monday) and will continue until tomorrow. The 25 floral displays have been created by 23 groups of flower arrangers from around the country, including flower arrangers from Flowers North West, St Ann’s Church and Manchester Cathedral.

They include “A City United” sponsored by rival football clubs Manchester City and Manchester United; “Suffragette City”, a “City of Prayer and Contemplation”, “Media City” and “Coronation Street,” named after the long-running television soap opera set in the city.

 

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