Pope Francis in America: Pope Prays at Ground Zero, Meets 9/11 Families

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By Erin McClam

Pope Francis bowed his head and clasped his hands in prayer Friday at one of the enormous waterfall pools that mark where the towers of the World Trade Center once stood, and he summoned the world to "unity over hatred."

The pope stood alone for more than a minute at a pool that marks the footprint of the south tower. He occasionally lifted his eyes to look out at the expanse.

Pope Francis places a flower after praying for the victims at the September 11, 2001 memorial in New York, September 25, 2015.TONY GENTILE / Reuters

Francis laid a white rose along the edge, where names of the Sept. 11 dead are etched in bronze. He met with the relatives of some of the first responders killed in the attack.

PHOTOS: Pope Prays at Ground Zero

"Here grief is palpable," the pope said later at an interfaith service at the nearby museum. "The water we see flowing toward that empty pit reminds us of all those lives which fell prey to those who think that destruction, tearing down, is the only way to settle conflicts."

But he said that the site stands as a "heroic example" of strength, generosity and service. He cited firefighters who rushed into the burning towers with no concern for their own well-being.

"This place of death became a place of life, too," the pope said, according to a translation provided by the Vatican. "A place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division."

He sat alongside leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Hindu and other faiths. The pope delivered his remarks near a flood wall that separates Manhattan from the Hudson River, and that withstood the attack. Next to him was the final steel beam removed from the site.

The Associated Press contributed.