RELIGION

Pope Francis Brings Message Of Peace And Healing To 9/11 Memorial

"For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace."

Pope Francis made an emotional visit Friday to ground zero in lower Manhattan, where he paused to offer private prayers and took part in a multi-religious gathering entitled “A Witness to Peace.”

The event called upon both the pastoral and the prophetic side of the head of the Catholic Church as he prayed for healing for the families of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and called for people of all faiths to work together to ensure a future of peace.

With a remaining foundational wall of the Twin Towers as his backdrop, the Pope addressed approximately 500 religious leaders from different traditions, showing his compassion for the suffering that took place where he stood.

"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. "Here, amid pain and grief, we also have a palpable sense of the heroic goodness which people are capable of, those hidden reserves of strength from which we can draw. ... This place of death became a place of life too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division."

Before the service, Francis was met at the Memorial Plaza by 1,200 members of the 9/11 community including family members of victims, first responders, rescue and recovery workers, survivors of the 1993 and 2001 attacks, and residents of the neighborhood.

The pope paused for reflection at the South Pool of the memorial to look at the bronze panels that bear the names of the victims and to greet a small number of families.

Pope Francis places a white rose at the South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in New
Pope Francis places a white rose at the South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in New York. 

One of the family members who came to see the pontiff was Jim Giaccone, who lost his brother in the attacks and who brought his 86-year-old aunt, Bernice Giaccone, to the ceremony. Raised Catholic, Giaccone told The Huffington Post that while many, including his father and aunt, had gone towards the church after 9/11, he had gone the other way.   

"As many times as I tried faith it felt like a rejected organ. While I spent time mentoring two kids who had lost their dad, and volunteering with the 9/11 Tribute Center, I still felt that need for the church, to accept and believe again. Pope Francis gives me some hope. I have hope that he will be the catalyst that I will be able to believe and accept God and the church and to be able to have faith again."  

The multi-religious gathering took place within the 9/11 Memorial Museum in Foundation Hall and opened with invocations by Imam Khalid Latif, a chaplain at New York University and the chaplain for the New York Police Department; and Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, senior rabbi at Park Avenue Synagogue. Both leaders emphasized the theme of peace and reconciliation between religious faiths.

"The setting says it all," Cosgrove told The Huffington Post. "The fact that there will be an interreligious gathering affirming our commitment to peace and dialogue in the very spot that is associated with religion as an instrument of violence and hate is an extraordinary powerful message to the world.”

Francis offered his own prayer, entitled "Prayer for Remembrance," followed by prayers for peace from leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities.

The pope's concern for peace and interfaith cooperation for the common good has been a hallmark of his papacy in Rome; it also marked his time as cardinal in Buenos Aires, where he had a close relationship with both the Muslim and the Jewish communities. He even invited Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, with whom he wrote the book On Heaven and Earth, and Imam Omar Abboud to join his delegation on a visit to the Middle East. The friendship between the men was captured in a photograph at the Western Wall.

 This year, the Catholic Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” also known as Nostra Aetate, which offered an official blueprint for the Catholic Church to foster interfaith peace.

In his remarks at the Sept. 11 memorial, the pope made clear his commitment to that peace.

"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," he said.

Pope Francis at the multi-religious prayer for peace at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on Friday, September 25, 2015 in New Yor
Pope Francis at the multi-religious prayer for peace at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on Friday, September 25, 2015 in New York

Alice Greenwald, director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, told HuffPost in an email that the pope's "messages of the power of love and peace over hate and violence echo the very principles that inspired the commitment to remember and rebuild."

"His historic visit reminds us that when we come together in peace, nothing is impossible," she added. 

 The Pope ended his address by inviting the gathering to pray for peace:

"Here, in this place of remembrance, I would ask everyone together, each in his or her own way, to spend a moment in silence and prayer. Let us implore from on high the gift of commitment to the cause of peace."

The multi-religious gathering ended with The Young People’s Chorus of New York City singing "Let There Be Peace On Earth,” which opens with the line, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

  • Goodbye Pope Francis!
    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day
    NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images
    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day visit to the US. 
  • People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
    BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
  • A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
  • A family prays as they watch a Mass on a large screen.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family prays as they watch a Mass on a large screen.
  • A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
  • Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
  • Women pray as they watch the Mass.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Women pray as they watch the Mass.
  •  A U.S. Army serviceman receives communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
    Pool via Getty Images
     A U.S. Army serviceman receives communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
  • Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (C) walks to receive communion.
    Pool via Getty Images
    Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (C) walks to receive communion.
  • Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 20
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
  • A woman does the sign of the cross as she take part in a Mass with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sep
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A woman does the sign of the cross as she take part in a Mass with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
  • People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September
    BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis is in the United State for the last of 6 days during his first trip as the leader of the Catholic Church. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
    Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
    Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in P
    Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at B
    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  • Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
  • Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsyl
    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets corrections officers during a visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Fa
    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets corrections officers during a visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility September 27, 015 in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Pope Francis waves to the audience after speaking at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsy
    Drew Angerer via Getty Images
    Pope Francis waves to the audience after speaking at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsylvania. After visiting Washington and New York City, Pope Francis concludes his tour of the U.S. with events in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
  • Pope Francis presents an image of Our Lady of Charity from Cuba to Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, at Saint Charl
    Drew Angerer via Getty Images
    Pope Francis presents an image of Our Lady of Charity from Cuba to Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.
  • Pope Francis met privately with survivors of sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday morning.&nbsp;<br><br>Re
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Pope Francis met privately with survivors of sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday morning. 

    Read more here.
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2
    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
  • Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO
    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
CONVERSATIONS