Benedict XVI to pray at New York's Ground Zero

Other News Materials 20 April 2008 07:18 (UTC +04:00)

( news.smh.com ) - Pope Benedict XVI will Sunday wrap up his first papal trip to the United States with a huge mass at Yankees' baseball stadium and a visit to the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At the World Trade Center site, called Ground Zero, Benedict will pray for world peace and meet with survivors and families of the nearly 3,000 people who died when planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the twin skyscrapers.

"That he is the first (pope) to come to Ground Zero is very big," said Will Jimeno, 40, a Port Authority policeman who was pulled out of the rubble of the collapsed skyscrapers after being buried in concrete and dust for 13 hours, told AFP.

"So many people lost their lives, so many good people. His visit is a show to the world that on 9/11, you had very cowardly people attack not only the US, but the world. Because the World Trade Center represented the world," said Jimeno before the papal visit to Ground Zero, which he will not attend.

"It's ironic, but I'll be in Rome when the pope is here," said the devout Catholic who says his faith, and a vision of Christ, helped him to survive in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

The prayer Benedict will recite was released ahead of time by the Vatican.

"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world," the head of the Roman Catholic Church will implore.

"We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here -- the heroic first responders ... along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy," the pope will say.

"We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania."

After the visit to Ground Zero, Benedict will celebrate mass for 55,000 people at Yankee stadium, the second huge mass of the six-day visit after a service in Nationals' baseball stadium in Washington.

In the six days he spent in the United States, the German-born pontiff has marked several firsts -- the visit to Ground Zero, the first mass celebrated by a pope in the 150-year-old St Patrick's cathedral in New York, and the first visit by a Roman Catholic leader to a synagogue in the United States.

He celebrated his 81st birthday at the White House on April 16, and the third anniversary of his election to the papacy in New York Saturday.

Benedict did not shy away from controversy during the trip, repeatedly addressing the sex scandal that has rocked the US church both financially and morally.

And the pope won over many Americans, who had expected to welcome a shy, reserved man with difficulty matching the charisma of his predecessor, John Paul II.

The pope broke his usual reserve -- and got the US secret service to break theirs -- Friday evening, when he mingled with hundreds of wellwishers outside the residence of the Vatican envoy to the United Nations where he is staying.