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Sunday, April 20, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2008 (VIS) - In New York at 9.30 a.m. local time today, the Pope visited Ground Zero, the name now used to refer to the site once occupied by the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

  On 11 September 2001 two aircraft crashed into the twin towers, destroying them and a number of neighbouring buildings in a terrorist attack which cost the lives of 2,896 people. The site today is a vast 80-metre deep crater, surrounded by a fence and marked with a cross.

  In 2002 the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre was put out for tender in a competition won by the architect Daniel Libensky. Today, Ground Zero is a construction site where work is scheduled to finish in the year 2012. The main building of the new complex will be the "Freedom Tower", 541 metres high.

  Benedict XVI arrived at Ground Zero accompanied by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York. Awaiting him there were Michael Bloomberg, mayor of the city; David A. Paterson and John Corzine, respectively governors of New York and of New Jersey; 24 people representing the forces that responded to the attack of 11 September, and a number of injured and relatives of the victims.

  The Holy Father kneeled for a few minutes of silent prayer for the victims of the attack, then lit a candle before pronouncing the following prayer:

  "O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

  "We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here -
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on 11 September 2001.

  "We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

  "We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

  "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.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

  "God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all".

  The prayer over, the Pope greeted survivors of the attack, relatives of some of the victims, and members of the rescue squads. Finally, he imparted his blessing to those present.

  After the ceremony, the Holy Father returned to his residence where he bid farewell to the staff of the Holy See permanent mission to the United Nations in New York before having lunch in private.
PV-U.S.A./PRAYER GROUND ZERO/NEW YORK        VIS 20080420 (620)


VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - Today at 4.30 p.m. local time, the Holy Father met with young people and seminarians at New York's St. Joseph's Seminary.

  Following a welcome speech delivered by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, three representatives of the 20,000 young people presented the Pope with bread, rice and maize as a symbol of the richness of their various traditions. A group of young people then sang him "Happy Birthday" in German.

  The Pope began his address by referring to the six images on display at the meeting. "Images", he said, "of six ordinary men and women who grew up to lead extraordinary lives. The Church honours them as Venerable, Blessed, or Saint: ... St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Fr. Felix Varela. ... Each responded to the Lord's call to a life of charity and each served Him here, in the alleys, streets and suburbs of New York".

  "And what of today?" the Pope asked. "Who bears witness to the Good News of Jesus on the streets of New York, in the troubled neighbourhoods of large cities, in the places where the young gather, seeking someone in whom they can trust? God is our origin and our destination, and Jesus the way", he said.

  After highlighting the fact that young Americans today "are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness", the Holy Father recalled how his own adolescence was "marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew - infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion - before it was fully recognised for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good".

  "Let us thank God", said the Pope, "that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights".

  "The power to destroy does, however, remain", he warned. "To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. ... During the beautiful Easter vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds!" And "what might that darkness be?" the Pope asked. "What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope?" In this context, he recalled young people "affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation - especially of girls and women".

  Another "area of darkness - that which affects the mind - often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations", said the Pope. Hence "the fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded" because "it can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda".

  The Holy Father noted that "often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person, ... and in truth's place - or better said its absence - an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism".

  "Dear friends", he told the young people "truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One Whom we can always trust. ... Ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in".

  "How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfilment and lasting happiness? ... Christ's light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ's way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace".

  Benedict XVI then turned his attention to "four essential aspects of the treasure of our faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations.

  "What matters most", he added, "is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. ... Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore Him in the Eucharist. Let His word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness".

  "Through the liturgy, the 'work of Jesus' is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them. ... Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the Sacraments, Jesus is at work".

  The Pope then referred to "new injustices" stemming "from the exploitation of the heart and manipulation of the mind; even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation", he said. "We must respond with a renewed social action that stems from the universal love that knows no bounds".

  He invited the young men and women to express their gratitude to "parents, grandparents and godparents, ... they made it possible for you to receive the greatest gift of your life", Baptism. "On that day you entered into the holiness of God Himself. You became adoptive sons and daughters of the Father. You were incorporated into Christ".

  Turning then to address the 300 seminarians from east coast dioceses present at the gathering, the Pope told them: "The People of God look to you to be holy priests. ... I urge you to deepen your friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd. ... Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit".

  The Holy Father also underlined the generous contribution made by religious and by regular priests "to the mission of the Church. ... The wondrous array of charisms proper to each religious institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury. ... Through the discovery of charisms, which yield such a breadth of spiritual wisdom, I am sure that some of you young people will be drawn to a life of apostolic or contemplative service".

  "The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ", said Pope Benedict in conclusion, telling the young people present that within the Church "you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord. ... You are Christ's disciples today. Shine His light upon this great city and beyond".

  Finally, the Pope bid farewell to his audience "until we meet again in Sydney this July for World Youth Day!"
PV-U.S.A./YOUTH SEMINARIANS/NEW YORK        VIS 20080420 (1150)

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