Pope Ratzinger embarked on his first-ever, six-day papal tour of the United States on April 15. While there, he celebrated his 81st birthday on April 16 and his third year as pope on April 19. During the historic visit, Pope Ratzinger urged diplomacy over war, called for more dialogue among religious groups and stressed the urgency of human rights worldwide.
High-profile events included appearances at baseball stadiums, a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House, a prayer service at Ground Zero and a speech at the United Nations in New York. He also met with a host of religious leaders, including a brief visit to the Park East Synagogue in New York, where he received a seder plate, a Passover haggadah and a box of matzo from Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
During his visit, the pope voiced ‘deep shame' over the sexual abuse that has rocked many American dioceses, saying ‘The Church will do everything it can to heal the wounds caused by pedophile priests' and ensure ‘events of this kind are no longer repeated', he told reporters from his chartered Alitalia plane. He also organized a closed-door meeting with five victims of abuse.
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