After delivering a message to the General Assembly at the United Nations on Friday, Pope Francis traveled to the water pools that mark where the World Trade Center stood before the September 11th attacks. The pope stood alone saying a prayer and looking out at the expanse. He then later laid a white rose at the edge where the names of the terrorist attacks are etched in bronze. Francis visited ground zero in Lower Manhattan and later went inside the 9/11 museum and took part in an interfaith prayer service and delivered a prayer. It was Francis’ first visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
Pope Francis shook hands with Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who helped get the museum off the ground. Before he leaves, the Pope will head over to see the famous 9/11 cross, which is two pieces of steel fused into the shape of a cross after the attacks and later became a focal point at Ground Zero. Among those Pope Francis met with were widows Virginia Bauer and Monica Iken-Murphy, whose husbands perished in the World Trade Center. “Everyone has a story here,” said a weeping Loretta Sabella, whose firefighter brother Thomas Sabella was killed. “I hope he brings peace to this place, where many have been suffering for the last 13 or 14 years.”
Pope Francis gave a short speech at the prayer meeting. He started his remarks by saying, in English, apologizing that he would be saying the rest of the speech in Spanish.
I feel many different emotions standing here at Ground Zero, where thousands of lives were taken in a senseless act of destruction. Here grief is palpable,” he said.
The backdrop for the interfaith service of peace is the surviving retaining wall of the original World Training Center. The pope says that the memorial should remind everyone that no differences are insurmountable and that no dispute cannot be reconciled.
In this place of pain and memory I am full of hope, because I can join with leaders representing the many religious, and because we can enrich the life of this great city. I trust that our presence together will be a powerful sign of our shared desire to be a force for reconciliation, peace and justice in this community and throughout the world. For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace. In the face of every attempt to make us uniform, we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and raise our voices against anything that would stand in the way of such unity. Together we are called to say ‘no’ to every attempt to make us the same, and ‘yes’ to accepting diversity and reconciliation.”
Pope Francis was the first pope to visit the 9/11 memorial and museum. A candle was on display next to the south pool, a reminder of the last papal visit to what was then known as Ground Zero. In 2008, Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, lit a single candle at bedrock of the construction site that has turned into a new World Trade Center. It includes the nation’s tallest building, One World Trade Center, which opened for business last year.