John Paul II Pays Homage to New York Firefighters

Receives Delegation and Helmet of Fallen Chaplain

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2001 ( John Paul II paid homage Saturday to New York´s firefighters when he greeted a delegation in St. Peter´s Basilica.

«May Almighty God grant the bereaved families consolation and peace, and may he give you and your fellow firemen strength and courage to carry on your great service to your city,» the Pope told the delegation, which attended a Mass with volunteers of Roman associations.

«With the promise of my continued prayers, I invoke upon you and your families God´s abundant blessings,» the Holy Father said.

Under Michelangelo´s cupola, firefighter Patrick Burns gave the Pontiff the helmet of Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, chaplain of the Fire Department, who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers.

Father Judge died while giving last rites to a firefighter fatally wounded by a falling body. When the priest removed his fire helmet to pray, he was struck on the head by debris and killed.

The firefighters were introduced to the Pope by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar for Rome, who referred to «the unforgettable testimony of dedication and courage» shown on Sept. 11.

Later Saturday, New York Fire Department Chief Daniel Nigro, who replaced Peter Ganci who died in the tragedy, took part in an Italian-organized demonstration of support for the United States.

Nigro spoke about his meeting with the Pope when he addressed the crowd.

«The Pope told us that since Sept. 11, he has prayed incessantly for the victims and for strength for us, the firemen,» Nigro said. «We told him that this is exactly what we felt. ? All of us will return to New York with the blessing of the Holy Father.»

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