Thousands Attend Memorial Service for Slain CARE Director

More than 2,000 people gathered in London's Westminister Cathedral for a funeral mass in memory of Margaret Hassan, the respected British aid worker abducted and believed murdered in Iraq last month.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, England's top Roman Catholic cardinal, celebrated the requiem Mass for the "gentle, private, brave, loving and compassionate" woman whom he called “a martyr.”

"I use the word advisedly because the word martyr means witness," he said.

"Margaret witnessed, in both her life and her death, to the act of loving."

Irish-born Margaret Hassan, who served as the director for CARE International in Iraq, was allegedly shot in the head by a hooded militant last month after she was abducted in Baghdad on Oct. 19 while on her way to work.

Hassan, the most prominent of more than 170 foreigners kidnapped in Iraq this year, was renowned for her 30 years of work in Iraq, distributing medicine, food and supplies to Iraqis suffering under the sanctions of the 1990s.

Murphy-O'Connor described Hassan as "a peacemaker in a time of seemingly endless wars. She hungered and thirsted for justice for the Iraqi people."

"She was persecuted, brutally slain, because she was working in the cause of right. Margaret is not merely a memory; she is part of all of us. She will not be forgotten."

In a tribute read during the mass by a family friend, Hassan's sisters Deirdre, Geraldine and Kathryn and her brother Michael told how Margaret had not only been an aid worker, but also their big sister.

"She was brave, she was charitable, she was humble and hard working. Yes, she was all of these things, but most of all she was our big sister," they said.

"Margaret was against war and sanctions. She tried to make a difference. She was a force for good.

"Children, the sick and poor were her concern; those without food and clean water. Margaret gave her life for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.”

An obituary in the service sheet detailed her long career as an aid worker and language teacher and quoted a tribute to her which had been posted on a Web site: "The world needs more people like this lady."