Pope Francis made a moving visit to the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum on his first full day in New York, remembering the fallen as victims of “violence, hatred and revenge” and praying that God might “bring peace to our violent world.”
Speaking in both English and Spanish to a roomful of faith leaders and New York City dignitaries, Pope Francis said, “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 opposing every attempt to create a rigid uniformity,” the pope said, “we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and lift our voices against everything which would stand in the way of such unity.” (The full English translation of his address is available here.)
Peace and unity was the theme of the morning, signaled first by opening remarks delivered in tandem by Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove and Imam Khalid Latif. The pope was also joined onstage by representatives of the Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, as well as an Orthodox bishop and an evangelical minister.
Though the pope appeared tired at times, he brightened up in his individual encounters, giving a European-style greeting to Archbishop Demetrios of Greek Orthodox Church and later to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as he exited the auditorium.
Before the speech, the pope visited the reflecting pools that now sit where the World Trade Center once stood and prayed with the hundreds gathered in the plaza. He then traveled into the lower auditorium of the 9/11 Memorial, which now houses remnants of the wreckage from that day, including a beam covered in graffiti that was the last to be removed from the 9/11 recovery and construction site.
The auditorium opened to invited guests at 8:30 and most of the crowd arrived early to await the pope’s arrival. As the time for his entrance drew nearer, the auditorium grew almost completely silent, as the leaders of the world’s one billion Catholic made his way to what host Norah O’Donnell called a placed “made sacred by those who died.”
The program for the ceremony, which included Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh prayers, was organized by James Massa, a recently ordained bishop in the Diocese of Brooklyn who is heavily involved in interfaith dialogue. Local Bishops Nicholas DiMarzio and William Murphy were also in attendance along with a host of other Catholic leaders.
To end the ceremony, the Youth People’s Chorus of New York City sang, “Let Peace Begin With Me,” which can be viewed below:
After the ceremony, Pope Francis visited an exhibition room housing a metal cross that was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center and became a symbol of hope and resurrection in the days and months after the catastrophe.