Pope addresses faithful at St. Patrick's Cathedral

He offered a prayer for Muslims who died outside Mecca, addressed the clergy sex-abuse scandal, cheered America's nuns

Pope Francis plunged into New York on Thursday and at an evening prayer service in St. Patrick's Cathedral offered a prayer for Muslims killed in the hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia, consoled priests for having to "bear the shame" of the clergy sex-abuse scandal, and thanked America's nuns.

During 40 hours in New York, the pope will address world leaders at the United Nations, participate in an interfaith service at the Sept. 11 memorial and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden. He will visit a school in Harlem and take a drive through Central Park, part of a whirlwind tour of the Big Apple that got off to a quintessential welcome with a high school brass band serenading him with "New York, New York," on the airport tarmac.

On Thursday evening, on the steps of the recently spruced up cathedral, dignitaries including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer welcomed him for an evening vespers service.

Pope Francis began by addressing the deaths earlier in the day of more than 700 faithful Muslims in a stampede on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Francis said he wanted to offer a "sentiment of closeness in light of the tragedy" that the Muslim people had suffered on Thursday.

He told “my Muslim brothers” that after the “tragedy they suffered in Mecca … in this moment I give assurances that my prayers, ... in this moment of prayer, I unite myself with you all in prayer to God, our father, all powerful and merciful."

Within a long walk of the financial hub of Wall Street, Pope Francis touched again on one of the theme’s of his trip to the Americas, cautioning against the extremes of capitalism and reminding the faithful in a city that never sleeps that “rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn how to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve.”

Speaking to members of the clergy and religious orders gathered at the cathedral, Francis again raised the clergy-sex abuse scandal, said he was aware they had "suffered greatly" by having to "bear the shame" of clergy who had molested children. He thanked them for their faithful service to the church in the face of the scandal. His comments have angered advocates for victims.

In a move to salve wounds opened by his predecessor, who had launched an investigation of women he had regarded as radical feminists, the pope singled out American nuns, calling them "women of strength."

"I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States," Francis said. "What would the church be without you?"

The investigation by Pope Benedict XVI into more than 340 religious orders left may Catholics in the United States complaining that the male-dominated Vatican was unfairly picking on nuns who play a huge role in church education and hospitals.

A six-year clash between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ended in April, after the group, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. nuns, agreed to demands they keep within Roman Catholic doctrine.

Sister Gertrude Lily of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary says she's "very grateful for him recognizing that we, too, are disciples of the Lord."

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