Just three days before Sept. 11, the Queen of the Rosary church in Elk Grove Village, with Francis Cardinal George as principal celebrant, held its "Blue Mass" Sunday in honor of police, firefighters and paramedics.
But references to the upcoming anniversary were conspicuously absent from the cardinal's homily.
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Instead, George focused on the situation in Syria -- and particularly how it affects Christians in the region.
He alluded to Pope Francis asking people "to pray for peace, to ask that everyone come together around the Syrian conflict before we begin any more military solutions that have been tried and found wanting in Syria and everyplace else.
"He asks us to preserve freedom by safeguarding peace and to do that in such a way that every voice has a chance to be heard, because otherwise we will be drawn again into situations where it is violence that determines the outcome, and the outcome isn't very clear.
"So we should take the pope at his word and pray very sincerely for peace in Syria and peace in the world. In Syria and in the Middle East in general we should pray in a particular way for our Christian brothers and sisters, who are in some ways the most threatened, because they are a small minority now, even though they were there for 2,000 years."
George did pose for pictures with first responders who attended the ceremony. And two of the celebrants of the Mass paid homage to firefighters and police officers; Rev. Edward Pelrine mentioned them in his closing remarks, while the Rev. Michael J. Owen recited the names of deceased local policemen and firefighters.
Elk Grove Village Fire Chief Richard Mikel, who attended the ceremony, agreed that Syria is on the nation's radar, but Sept. 11 should never be forgotten.
"I think the big thing that weighs heavily right now is the current situation, what's going on in Syria and what's going to happen with that unrest," he said. He added that Sept. 11 continues to claim victims, mentioning "the people who continue to die after working at ground zero from cancers that they attracted working there. Those numbers didn't stop after Sept. 11. Those numbers continue to grow to this day. It's a tough topic for us to talk about."