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Pope cries out after America's apocalyptic day

John Paul II dedicated his general audience on Wednesday to prayer for the dead and wounded in Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

"Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible attack on the dignity of man," he said in a shocked voice to the 15,000 pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father requested those present not to applaud during the audience. He was visibly disturbed.

"How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty?" he asked. "The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people."

"But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail," he stressed. "Christ's word is the only one that give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit."

From St. Peter's Square, all those present joined in a special Prayer of the Faithful for the victims of the attack, the wounded, their families and world leaders. The papal audience ended with the sorrowful notes of the De Profundis and with another, emotional prayer by the Pope in memory of the victims.

Text of General Audience