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Banks

With Wall Street in turmoil, some turn to religion

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As financial workers suffer through tumultuous times on Wall Street, some are turning to an old source of solace: religion.

Christians cross the Brooklyn Bridge as they take part in the Good Friday Way of the Cross procession in New York March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Religious leaders said attendance was up at lunchtime meetings in New York’s financial district last week, with many more people in business attire than usual.

That is hardly surprising, said Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones of Trinity Church Wall Street, given that people don’t know if their employers will survive from one day to the next.

“The economic financial crisis is a reminder that we cannot put our faith in riches, that we cannot put our faith in money,” Bozzuti-Jones said in his sermon at lunchtime on Friday, which he devoted to coping with the financial crisis.

A handful of men in suits and ties and women in business attire were among dozens of people at the Episcopal church, which was hit by debris from the World Trade Center collapse on September 11, 2001.

The church, which normally attracts tourists and a few financial workers, experienced an upturn in visitors this week, Bozzuti-Jones said. In the past few days he had requests for help to pay rent from those who had lost their jobs.

“People are just sitting there, praying or crying and definitely exhausted. There has definitely been an increase in the number of people who have come in,” he said in his office after the service.

The church was putting on special workshops and seminars over the next few weeks including “Coping with stress in an uncertain time” and “Navigating career transitions.”

Just a few blocks away, St. Peter’s Church has seen “a slight uptick in attendance among people in suits,” said Father Peter Madigan. St. Peter’s, a Catholic church, displays a cross found in the rubble of September 11.

“In the past couple of days there was high anxiety and trepidation,” Madigan said. “The situation we are faced with today by economic standards is very much unknown, uncharted territory and faith helps us deal with those situations.”

The Wall Street Synagogue is opening its doors nightly starting this week to accommodate Wall Street people. But rather than a rush of people last week, Rabbi Meyer Hager said he has noticed a change in his regular worshippers.

“I can see it on the faces of certain people who come here who are regular people -- some work for AIG and other large banking houses -- I can see the expression of strained concern,” he said.

He noted that the synagogue was founded in 1929, the year of the Wall Street crash.

A mosque located in the financial district about a mile from Wall Street did not return a call seeking comment.

Lou Janicek, who works as a financial adviser on Wall Street, said he had not considered attending a religious service, but said Wall Street would benefit if people applied the same morals they learned in church to the workplace.

“What you do at work matters as much as whether you regularly attend church or the synagogue or whatever,” said Janicek, who was brought up as a Christian. “If you are an accountant or you find yourself in an unethical situation, you can’t just stand by and let it happen -- then you have another Enron.

Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Eddie Evans

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