NEW YORK —
Alone with his thoughts at the U.S. memorial to the largest terrorist attack in its history, Pope Francis stood alone and prayed.
He left a white rose atop one of the bronze panels where the names of the 3,000 terrorism victims were etched. It was a rare moment when the pope acted alone.
Pope Francis was in his second day of visiting New York City and this was his most solemn event, attended by leaders of many religions - Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Hindu and more.
The pope stood at two reflecting pools, built where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood, hallowed ground for Americans.
"Here grief is palpable," the pope said later at an interfaith service inside the memorial's museum.
Hopes of the faithful
Michelle Olivo hoped the pope's message would transcend religious differences.
"We are all human beings, and we all ultimately believe in something. So our ultimate goal should be peace for everybody. It doesn't matter what god you believe in. We all want the same thing."
Mike Lombardo worked next to the World Trade Center the day the planes hit. Afterwards, he saw the mangled plane wheels on the ground and the bodies on the sidewalk. He hopes the pope will bring peace to many.
"He's symbolic. You look to him to unite people of different faiths and bring them all together," he said. "We are all one people under God. His message is of unity and of hope. It's a positive one. You have to have faith."
James Santiago is from the Bronx. He believes in God, but doesn't follow any specific religion. He enjoys following Pope Francis.
"It's not about one man. It's the power of his message. I'm non-denominational and here I am coming to see a Christian pope," he said. "Look at the power of his message. You have people lining up in the thousands over here just to get a glimpse of him. It's really about what he does and what he's about."
Bringing together different religions
During the service, the pope joined 700 leaders of different faiths to talk about healing and to lead a prayer of peace for a violent world.
"Give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all."
Swami Ganapati, a non-denomination Siddha meditation master was in the interfaith service. He says he witnessed Francis gracefully combining two contrasting passions in his effort to bring all religions together.
"What he's inherited is a life of politics and a life of godliness. And you have to blend the two together or there will be no change," he said.
Each religious leader recited a peace prayer in a native language....blending into one voice - for peace.