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By Barbara Schoetzau
New York
20 April 2008

Pope Benedict XVI began his last day in the United States at Ground Zero, the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau has the story.

Pope Benedict XVI meets with a first responder after praying and lighting a candle at ground zero in New York, 20 Apr 2008
Pope Benedict XVI meets with a first responder after praying and lighting a candle at ground zero in New York, 20 Apr 2008
The pontiff brought his message of peace to hallowed ground as the popemobile descended the ramp to the lowest levels of the former World Trade Center site.

Pope Benedict knelt in silent prayer on a pew placed in front of a large candle, which he then lit.

The pope then offered a brief prayer for peace and healing for survivors and the families of victims of the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"Oh God of love, compassion and healing, look on us people of many faiths and traditions who gather today at this site of incredible violence and pain. We ask in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here, to heroic first responders, along with a the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy simply because their work or service brought them here on September 11th, 2001," he said.

The pope then met individually with two-dozen survivors and representatives of victims' families.

According to officials, Benedict XVI insisted that a stop at Ground Zero be put on the schedule of his three-day visit to New York. For the low key, secular occasion, the Pope wore a long white overcoat in marked contrast to the more elaborate vestments he has worn throughout the rest of his six-day visit to the United States.

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