.- Pope Benedict took his leave this evening from the United States at JFK International Airport in the presence of over 3,000 well-wishers.
“The time has come for me to bid farewell to your country,” the Pope said.
“These days that I have spent in the United States have been blessed with many memorable experiences of American hospitality, and I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind welcome. It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Catholic community here,’ Benedict XVI shared.
The Holy Father then recalled the various highlights of his trip:
“It was heart-warming to spend time with leaders and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions, and I renew my assurances of respect and esteem to all of you. I am grateful to President Bush for kindly coming to greet me at the start of my visit, and I thank Vice-President Cheney for his presence here as I depart. The civic authorities, workers and volunteers in Washington and New York have given generously of their time and resources in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit at every stage, and for this I express my profound thanks and appreciation to Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York.”
The Pope also noted the anniversaries of the different dioceses and his meetings with the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States. “With great affection” he sent them all his final greetings and encouraged them “to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance.”
Calling his visit to the U.N. one of the highlights of his trip, he encouraged “people of good will everywhere to continue working tirelessly to promote justice and peaceful co-existence between peoples and nations.”
Pope Benedict XVI also reflected on how his visit to Ground Zero will remain “firmly etched” in his memory and promised to “continue to pray for those who died and for all who suffer in consequence of the tragedy that occurred there in 2001.”
He concluded by praying that “for all the people of America, and indeed throughout the world”, the future will bring increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.”
The Holy Father concluded his trip as he began it: recalling Christ as our hope and saying “God bless America!”
The Pope’s departure message can be read here.