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Pope Leaves U.S. With A Plea For Peace

Pope Benedict XVI says farewell to Vice President Dick Cheney as his wife Lynne, center, look on, at New York's JFK International Airport, during a farewell ceremony on April, 20, 2008.
AP Photo/Stuart Ramson
Pope Benedict's first trip to the United States since he was elected three years ago is over.

The pope's plane, nicknamed "Shepherd One," has departed from New York's Kennedy Airport. Vice President Dick Cheney hosted a farewell ceremony for the pope at the end of his six-day visit. Former President Clinton and presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton also attended.

Before leaving, the pope declared: "May God bless America!"

Earlier in the day, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church arrived in storied Yankee Stadium to celebrate Mass for 57,000 worshippers after making a solemn stop at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The crowd roared when the pope was welcomed to the Mass by New York's Cardinal Edward Egan.

Tens of thousands of Roman Catholics filled the stadium, chanting, clapping and waving white and yellow handkerchiefs in the Vatican's colors as the white popemobile pulled in.

Outside the stadium, two yellow dump trucks filled with sand blockaded 161st Street before the Mass, an extra level of security along with the heavy police presence. Pilgrims without tickets pushed up against metal police barricades, hoping to get a glimpse of the arriving pope.

Inside the stadium, ad-splashed outfield walls were draped in white with purple and yellow bunting. A white altar perched over second base, and the papal seal covered the pitcher's mound, suspended by white and yellow ribbons.

"I have never seen Yankee Stadium so beautiful, and I have season's tickets," said Philip Giordano, 49, a tax attorney from Greenwich, Connecticut, who won seats in the loge section behind home plate through a parish lottery. "It sure beats sitting in my local church."

Added his wife, Suzanne: "I'm hoping to feel something from (Benedict). Everyone who has seen him says they crumple, their knees buckle. You come away just feeling different."

The New Orleans crooner Harry Connick Jr., on the pre-Mass concert program, remarked that he is often asked if he's a practicing Catholic.

"Practicing?" he said. "I'm playing for the pope today."

A Prayer At The Site Of Tragedy

Pope Benedict XVI began the final day of his American journey by blessing the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and pleading with God to bring "peace to our violent world."

The visit by Benedict to ground zero was a poignant moment in a trip marked by unexpectedly festive crowds anxious to see the former academic who for three years has led the world's Roman Catholics.

Benedict was driven in the popemobile part-way down a ramp now used mostly by construction trucks to a spot by the north tower's footprint. He walked the final steps, knelt in silent prayer for a few moments, then rose to light a memorial candle.

Addressing a group that including survivors, clergy and public officials, he acknowledged the many faiths of the victims at the "scene of incredible violence and pain."

The pope also prayed for "those who suffered death, injury and loss" in the attacks at the Pentagon and in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. More than 2,900 people were killed in the four crashes of the airliners hijacked by al Qaeda.

"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world," the pope prayed on a chilly, overcast morning. "Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred."

Benedict invited 24 people with ties to ground zero to join him: survivors, relatives of victims and four rescue workers. He greeted each member of the group individually as a string quartet played in the background. In his prayer, he also remembered those who, "because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness."

"We said 'Where was God?' on 9/11, but he's come back here today and they've restored our faith," said deputy fire chief James Riches.

Hundreds of people stood just outside the site, behind police barricades, hoping for a glimpse of the pope.

The site where the World Trade Center was destroyed is normally filled with hundreds of workers building a 102-story skyscraper, a memorial and transit hub. It bears little resemblance to the debris-filled pit where crews toiled to remove twisted steel and victims' remains.

The remains of more than 1,100 people have never been identified.

Benedict was joined by New York Cardinal Edward Egan, along Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. David Paterson and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. The land is owned and managed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.