Pope concludes visit to US with Mass at Yankee Stadium

Monday, April 21, 2008

Benedict XVI in NYC on April 19.
Image: Taís Melillo.

Sunday was the last day of Pope Benedict XVI's six-day visit to the United States. The first event was a visit to the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, New York City, New York.

The Pope rode his Popemobile down a ramp, to the bottom of the site. Accompanied by Cardinal Edward Egan, the archbishop of New York, he knelt at a rectangular pool and prayed silently for the victims of the September 11 attacks. Then he held up a single lit candle, before he began to speak.

"Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred," the Pope said. "Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that lives lost here may not have been lost in vain."

The Pope crosses East 60th Street in Central Park on Saturday with heavy police security.
Image: Oquendo.

"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world; peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth," he said. Afterwards, he met with family members of 16 of the victims and also with four of the rescue workers.

"I didn't really have anything to say to him," George Bachmann, a now-retired fire fighter, who broke his back and suffered burns as a first responder. "Being in his presence was enough for me."

In the afternoon on Sunday, Benedict XVI travelled to The Bronx to hold Mass at Yankee Stadium, which is the home stadium for the New York Yankees baseball team. The stadium has been the scene of papal Masses by Paul VI in 1965 and John Paul II in 1979.

Final touches are being put on the stage at Yankee stadium on Saturday.
Image: llahbocaj.

The Popemobile entered the stadium at 2:19 p.m. EDT (UTC-4) and drove around the baseball field in front of the crowd of over 57,000.

"Your pastoral visit is for all of us gathered here in New York a blessing for which we are all grateful," said Cardinal Egan in his introduction. "It is an extraordinary privilege to be allowed to tell you what a deep and appreciated grace your presence is for all of us."

Benedict XVI told the crowd that the Mass was "a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations."

Early preparation of Yankee Stadium on April 19.
Image: llahbocaj.

During the homily, the Pope said "The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves." He also touched on the subjects of peace, human rights and religious freedom which had been hallmarks of his previous addresses while in the United States.

It also marked the 200th anniversary of the archdioces in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Louisville, which were all created in April 1808.

"It's like Jesus Christ visiting America," Clemens Semon, 50, a resident of Ozone Park, Queens who immigrated from Ivory Coast told The New York Times. "You see how many pack together, come together to see him? He's a unifier, he brings hope and peace."

Pope Benedict XVI delivers remarks at farewell ceremony at JFK Airport on Sunday.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney joined the Pope for the farewell ceremony at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton had been expected, but did not attend. They were even mentioned in Cheney's prepared remarks.

"You've encountered a nation facing many challenges, but with more blessings than anyone could count," Cheney said in his five-minute speech. "All Americans respect your message of peace, justice and freedom."

In the Pope's remarks, the pontiff mentioned the visit to the World Trade Center site, "My visit this morning to Ground Zero will remain firmly etched in my memory." His last comment as he turned to leave was, "May God Bless America."

Benedict XVI waved goodbye from the doorway of his Alitalia "Shepherd One" at 8:40 p.m. EDT.

The papal airplane "Shepherd One" touched down at Rome Ciampino Airport, Italy, at 10:40 a.m. CEST (UTC+2) on Monday.


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