NEW YORK — Pope Francis prayed Friday at an interfaith service at the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks after calling on world leaders at the United Nations to tackle the growing crises of climate change and worldwide conflict on his first full day in New York City.
Francis met with relatives of some of the nearly 3,000 people who died at the World Trade Center 14 years ago. He spoke of the grief he felt while visiting the 9/11 Memorial Foundation Hall, and of the symbolism of the falling water that runs down the wall of the memorial.
It symbolizes “tears shared for the destruction of yesterday who are joined by so much destruction today,” he said. “This is a place where we cry… for the powerlessness we feel when we see injustice, the inability to solve our differences, to dialog.”
After a prayer service joined by leaders of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim religions, Francis visited relics on display at the museum site — a Bible and a cross found in the rubble of the Twin Towers.
At the U.N. earlier, he called scolded leaders for making endless lists of ambitious goals but making little progress on critical problems facing the world.
“We human beings are part of the environment,” Francis said. “We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. … Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”
A short time later, he arrived at the the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the site of the 2001 terror attacks, where he said a silent prayer while looking over one of the site’s two outdoor reflecting pools. His arrival to the site was greeted with cries of “Francisco!” from a large crowd.
Then he went inside the 9/11 site to lead a moving multi-faith service, where he called for building unity from the world’s differences and reflected on the deaths of so many at the hands of terrorists 14 years ago.
Later, he will meet with Catholic students at an East Harlem school and wave to tens of thousands of greeters crowding Central Park for a glimpse of the pontiff riding in the white “popemobile” — a Jeep Wrangler partly outfitted with bullet-proof glass.
For his final event of the day, Francis will celebrate a Mass at Madison Square Garden that will be watched by millions across the USA and around the world.