`Commended to God': (Mother Teresa and Diana, Princess of Wales)

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STAFF

Two of the world's best known people died within a few days of each other a few weeks ago, once again making life, death and religion some of the most talked about issues of the day.

A memorial service for the Princess of Wales was held Sept. 6 in Westminster Abbey. A week later, a requiem was held for Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Commenting on the death of the late Princess of Wales, Archbishop Michael Peers observed that in her last press interview, Diana talked about the media and the way it had dealt with her. "It seems to me," he said, that "over the years, we've been presented with so many different pictures of her: the shy virgin, fond mother, but also neglectful mother, adulteress, temptress, a person of many charities ... She said in interviews that it had become hard for her to know who she was."

But, said the Primate, "I think what happens at a funeral, she's commended to God, the one person who always knew who she was."

Archbishop Peers, who sent a message of condolence to Diana's two sons, princes William and Harry, said he did not wish to immediately join the chorus of church leaders around the world who released official statements about the late princess.

Instead, he said, he thought the way the church in Canada was dealing with her death was the right way: by opening its doors to people who wanted to share their grief with the church and with their community.

And across the country, churches and cathedrals did open their doors.

In the Diocese of New Westminster, Bishop Michael Ingham spoke at Vancouver's Christ Church Cathedral, asking what lessons could be learned in Canada: "(We) must take a hard look at ourselves, especially those of us who create the market for this abuse of people's lives. For a long time now, we have been sliding into a spiritual wasteland in the Western world where millions of people fill their empty lives with stargazing and celebrity worship. Public fascination with the lives of celebrities has reached the level of idolatry. Idolatry leads to destruction. It has brought us here tonight. It has cut short a young and noble life. We are a society in deep trouble when this kind of market can survive at all, and it must send a warning signal to us in this country as elsewhere to get our spiritual house in order."

In the neighbouring Diocese of British Columbia, about 900 people, including Lt.-Gov. Garde Gardom, attended a service at Victoria's Christ Church Cathedral. "Whatever our belief, we remember her life and her enjoyment of life, and we rededicate to God the many charities she supported and commit ourselves to caring for others as she did," said Dean John Wright.

Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton, also held a memorial service for Diana. Not only were chairs brought out to augment the 500 seats in the cathedral, 1,200 people stood outside the West door.

Dean Bill Hockin said he scheduled the service because people needed a place to go, a way to express their grief.

"Death is a great mystery," he said, "and we only begin to understand its meaning through the language and story of faith. …