VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will pray for the conversion to love “of those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred” when he visits New York’s Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade towers destroyed on September 11, 2001.
A prayer he will read also commemorates those who died or were injured in the other September 11 attack at the Pentagon and on United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers fought off hijackers.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the September 11 attacks, including the 19 hijackers.
The pope will visit Ground Zero in lower Manhattan on April 20, the last day of his six-day visit to Washington and New York.
Last month, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused Benedict of being part of a “new crusade” against Islam. The Vatican rejected the accusation.
The visit to Ground Zero, now a gaping crater where new buildings and a memorial will be built, is expected to be the emotional high point of the trip.
The prayer, as released by the Vatican on Thursday, reads in full:
“O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain.
“We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here — the heroic first-responders: our fire fighters, police officers, emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel, along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy simply because their work or service brought them here on September 11, 2001.
“We ask you, in your compassion to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness.
“Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope. We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering. God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth.
“Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.
“Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and 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.”
Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Mary Gabriel