Pope Francis addresses U.N., prays at 9/11 museum, celebrates Mass before thousands

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NEW YORK (AP) — Pope Francis was greeted by tens of thousands of people as he drove through New York City’s Central Park Friday, a processional that marked his biggest public event in the city.

An ear-piercing roar rose from the crowd as his open-sided popemobile made its way slowly through the park.

Francis stood and waved to the crowd surging against barricades as the vehicle made its roughly 15-minute trip, flanked by police vehicles and officers on foot. Both sides of the Central Park road became a sea of arms holding up cellphones.

Some 80,000 people received tickets to the processional. It was added to the pope’s packed schedule to allow more people to see him, and vice versa.

Earlier, speaking at the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Francis said the world can build peace from its differences.

Speaking at an interfaith ceremony at the Sept. 11 museum, the pope said there should be opposition to “any attempt to make us all the same.” Rather, he encouraged all to “say yes to our differences, accepting reconciliation.”

He says the world must look to its diversity of languages, cultures and religions and throw away “feelings of hate and revenge and rancor.”

He says he was moved by visiting the site of the former World Trade Center’s twin towers and by meeting relatives of some of the nearly 3,000 victims.

He said he prayed to God to bring “peace to our violent world” and to “turn to your way of love” those who justify killing in the name of religion.

The pope also addressed the U.N. General Assembly earlier Friday.

Francis’ call for a world free of nuclear weapons drew applause from across the General Assembly — including from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Francis praised the recent Iranian nuclear deal in his speech to more than 100 world leaders and diplomats, saying it was proof that political will and patience can bring about fruits.

But Francis lamented that conflicts are raging elsewhere and that Christians and religious minorities, in particular, are being targeted. He called for a “grave summons” for world leaders to reflect on the innocents who are being slaughtered.

Francis also demanded respect for the sacredness of all life, in a reference to abortion. His comments are sure to please conservatives who have complained that he doesn’t speak out enough against abortion.

The Vatican has long objected to U.N. calls for access to contraception and abortion for women.

In a speech to the General Assembly, Francis offered conservatives a lot to cheer: He called for a respect for all life and called for recognition of what he called the “natural difference between man and woman” — a reference to the Vatican’s opposition to gender theory.

He denounced what he called “ideological colonization” of the developing world — a reference to how ideas about contraception and gay rights are often imposed on poor nations as a condition for development aid.

He also asserted at the United Nations that the world’s poor have a right to education, lodging, labor and land.

Francis has declared that there is a “right of the environment” and that humankind has no authority to abuse or destroy it.

Hoping to spur concrete action at upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris, Francis said the world’s powerful countries had a “selfish and boundless thirst” for money. He says that has led them to destroy the planet and impoverish the weak and disadvantaged.

Late Friday, during a Mass at Madison Square Garden, Francis emphasized a point he has made throughout his U.S. trip: the need to welcome foreigners and marginalized people.

In his homily he also cited “children who go without schooling, those deprived without medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly.”

He says God “frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness.” He also says, “God is living in our cities,” and so is the church.

He leaves for Philadelphia on Saturday morning.