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Pope Receives Warm Welcome in New York


Pope Benedict arrived in New York City Friday, on the final leg of his first U.S. visit. It was a full day for the 81-year old pontiff - he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, made an historic visit to a synagogue and held a prayer service with Christians of many denominations - all under tight security. From New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the papal visit.

The pope began his day at the United Nations, where he addressed a packed General Assembly hall. Speaking about the importance of dialogue, diplomacy and human rights, Pope Benedict said every state has a duty to protect its people from grave and repeated human rights violations and from the consequences of humanitarian crises -- whether natural or man-made.

The pontiff gave his address in both French and English. Here he is heard through a translator. "If states are unable to guarantee such protection, it is then up to the international community to intervene with the legal means that are provided for under the Charter of the United Nations and other international instruments," he said.

The pope went on to note that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said respect for human rights is the most effective way to eliminate inequalities among countries and social groups, and for increasing security. He said respect for human rights must also include the right to religious freedom.

"It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights," he said.

During his three-hour visit to U.N. headquarters, the pontiff also met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said this was a "great day." The pope also addressed about a thousand U.N. staffers, paying tribute to the work they do around the world.

In the late afternoon, Pope Benedict made an historic visit to a synagogue in the city. It was the first time a Catholic pope has visited a Jewish house of worship in the United States. It was also significant, as Pope Benedict is German and the synagogue's head rabbi, Arthur Schneier, is a Holocaust survivor.

"Shalom! [Peace!] It is with joy that I come here just a few hours before the celebration of your Pesah [Passover], to express my respect and esteem for the Jewish community of New York City," he said.

Rabbi Schneier presented the pontiff with a silver Seder plate used at the Passover feast. The pope, in turn, presented the rabbi with a medieval Jewish manuscript from the Vatican library.

After his brief visit to the synagogue, the pope went to St. Joseph's Church in Manhattan, where he held a prayer service with Christians from all sects. St. Joseph's was established in the 1800s by German immigrants.

Saturday, the pope is scheduled to say Mass at the city's famed St. Patrick's Cathedral. In the afternoon he will visit a seminary just outside the city. Before departing for Rome on Sunday, the pontiff will visit Ground Zero - the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and then say Mass at Yankee Stadium.

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