Grenfell memorial service to provide bereaved with 'words of healing and truth'

A memorial service to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire will be an opportunity for "words of healing and truth", a bereaved relative has said.

Clarrie Mendy, whose cousin Mary Mendy and her daughter Khadija died in the fire, has been helping shape the multi-faith service, which will focus on remembering the 71 victims of the June 14 tower block blaze.

She said she had asked for the event to be held at St Paul's Cathedral, exactly six months after the fire, and she hoped the names of the 53 adults and 18 children who died would be read out as a mark of respect and recognition.

Ms Mendy told the Press Association: "I think a lot of people are anticipating and looking forward to this service at St Paul's.

"I know there's a lot of expectations. I know there's a lot of diversity from your normal tradition.

"I just hope this service resonates with people, with the hunger people have spiritually.

"A lot of people, right now there's no trust in the Government, a lot of people have more faith and trust in their religion."

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She went on: "I just hope it measures up to everybody's expectations and people will ... a lot of family will find healing from the messages, the sermons, and I hope it's soul-enriching.

"I hope there's words that will just echo and resonate, and say, 'yes, there is empathy, there is humanity, there is hope for the world', because I think this service is the platform that can really start to change humanity depending on the right words and - it's a church, people of god - how they convey the message to mankind.

"I hope I'm just not hoping for too much, but I am expecting a lot from this service, especially words of healing, and of truth."

The victims of Grenfell Tower
The victims of Grenfell Tower

More than 1,500 people are thought to be attending - around half of which are bereaved families and survivors while the other half includes members of the wider community, volunteers and first responders.

The multi-faith service will include messages of support for the bereaved, offering strength and hope for the future "for those of all faiths and none".

A banner with the Grenfell Heart will be displayed in the domed building while the Ebony Steel Band, the Portobello Road Salvation Army Band, an Islamic girls' choir from the Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools, and the St Paul's Cathedral Choir will perform.

A pre-recorded sound montage of anonymous voices from the Grenfell community will also be played.

Ben Gabbitas' close friend and confidante Sheila died in the fire (Victoria Jones/PA)
Ben Gabbitas' close friend and confidante Sheila died in the fire (Victoria Jones/PA)

Following the service, at 11am on Thursday, bereaved families and survivors will leave the cathedral together in silence, holding white roses.

Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid are some of the politicians who will be attending the memorial.

Also present will be the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Ben Gabbitas, whose close friend and confidante Sheila died in the fire, hailed the royals' presence as a constant strand of support through the uncertainty of the past six months.

The 48-year-old said healing would take a long time and that "the service and people's faith is an important part of what's getting them through".

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea leader Elizabeth Campbell will not be present after some families said they did not want the council to attend in an official capacity.

The council will instead mark the occasion with a minute's silence at 11am at the town hall in High Street, Kensington.