Pope meets New York firefighters
VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul has met a team of New York firefighters, praising their bravery and wishing peace on the families of colleagues they lost in the World Trade Center atrocity.
During a service in St Peter's Basilica for Rome's volunteer workers on Saturday, the Pope met eight members of the New York Fire Department and took a few moments to speak to each and give them his blessing.
"I give my warmest welcome to the delegation from the New York fire department," the 81-year-old pontiff told the thousands who crammed into St. Peter's.
"They bear unforgettable testimony to the qualities of courage and dedication," he said.
More than 300 firefighters were killed on September 11 after they rushed to help those stranded in New York's World Trade Center after two hijacked jets smashed into its twin towers.
One of the visiting fireman handed the Pope the helmet of Father Mychal Judge, a firefighters' chaplain who died while giving last rites to another firefighter who died in the tragedy.
"I pray to God that He might offer consolation and peace to the families of those who suffered loss, and give you the strength and courage to continue the great service you do for your city," the Pope told the firefighters in remarks quoted by Reuters.
In all, about 4,400 people were killed in the New York attack.
The New York delegation flew to Rome for "USA Day," a rally organised by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to bolster support for the U.S.-led coalition's offensive in Afghanistan.
New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was also speaking to the crowds at the rally via a video link, as were actress Sophia Loren and singer Luciano Pavarotti.
Another Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, was singing live on stage and Berlusconi delivering the closing speech.
An anti-war march was taking place at the same time to show "peace and solidarity with all oppressed peoples."
Organisers of the rival event said they anticipated between 30,000 and 50,000 demonstrators to show up.
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Vatican: the Holy See
Pope John Paul II
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