Pope Blesses Ground Zero In NYC

By: AP
By: AP

NEW YORK - Pope Benedict XVI visited ground zero on Sunday, blessing the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks and asking God to bring "peace to our violent world."

Benedict was driven in the popemobile part of the way down a ramp now used mostly by construction trucks to a spot by the north tower's footprint. He got out, walked the final steps and knelt in silent prayer for a few moments.

He then rose to light a memorial candle, pray and bless the site with holy water.

Joining the pope at the site were survivors of the attacks and relatives of those who died, as well New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cardinal Edward Egan.

After praying, the pope greeted the 9/11 survivors and their relatives.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has reached out in compassion to beleaguered clergy, victims of clergy sex abuse and members of other religious groups during his first U.S. trip.

On the final day of his journey, he turns his focus to the people of New York, in a prayer service Sunday at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Benedict has invited 24 people with ties to ground zero to join him: survivors, relatives of victims and four rescue workers. He will pray for peace, hope and healing, including for those who became ill after breathing toxic air in the ruins.

More than 2,700 people were killed in the terrorist strike.

"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world," the pope is expected to pray. "Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred."

The site where the World Trade Center was destroyed is normally filled with hundreds of workers building a 102-story skyscraper, a memorial and transit hub. It bears little resemblance to the debris-filled pit where crews toiled to remove twisted steel and victims' remains.

Benedict will travel down a ramp now used mostly by construction trucks to a spot by the north tower's footprint. He will kneel in silent prayer and bless the ground with holy water, acknowledging the many faiths of the victims at the "scene of incredible violence and pain."

The remains of more than 1,100 people have never been identified.

Benedict will be joined by New York Cardinal Edward Egan and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. New York Gov. David Paterson and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine have also been invited. The land is owned and managed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

Benedict has addressed terrorism several times during his six-day visit.

In a private meeting with President Bush, the two leaders "touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights," according to a joint U.S.-Holy See statement.

Benedict has been critical of harsh interrogation methods, telling a meeting of the Vatican's office for social justice last September that, while a country has an obligation to keep its citizens safe, prisoners must never be demeaned or tortured.

Addressing the United Nations on Friday, Benedict warned diplomats that international cooperation needed to solve urgent problems is "in crisis" because decisions rest in the hands of a few powerful nations.

The pope also insisted that the way to peace was by ensuring respect for human dignity.

"The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and increasing security," the pope said.

Those whose rights are trampled, he said, "become easy prey to the call to violence and they then become violators of peace."

Later Sunday, the pope will celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium, before returning to Rome.


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