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A Look Back At Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 Visit To New York City

Pope Benedict XVI In New York

Pope Benedict XVI greets Catholic faithful as he exits the altar after conducing Mass on April 20, 2008 at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Credit: JULIE JACOBSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Pope Benedict XVI has traveled around the world, but one of the most poignant trips was to New York City in 2008.

As CBS 2’s Mary Calvi reported, the pope left behind a major impact when he visited the Tri-State Area.

On April 20, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI arrived to a superstar’s welcome in New York.

“I think he surprised so many people when he became pope; that he was such a caring man,” said the Rev. Andrew Carrozza.

Carrozza met the pope when he was a cardinal, and saw him at a youth rally in Yonkers.

“John Paul II was a hard act to follow,” Carrozza said. “But Benedict was an intellectual, and yet, the young people at World Youth Day, when we took people there, were able to relate to him as well.”

Pope Benedict XVI is only the third pope ever to come to New York. His visit began at St. Joseph’s Seminary, where the grounds were filled with 20,000 young fans.

The pontiff became an unexpected hit at the youth rally. Even Kelly Clarkson was there, singing “Ave Maria.”

As CBS 2’s Don Dahler reported, the pope also used the opportunity to address the entire world at the United Nations.

“Respect for human rights is the answer to many of the world’s problems,” he said.

Benedict XVI was also the first pope to visit a synagogue on American soil, making for an unforgettable Passover in 2008.

“We have to stand in solidarity,” he said in his synagogue address.

But the highlight of the pope’s visit for tens of thousands of New Yorkers was when he held mass at Yankee stadium, the place many consider the cathedral of baseball.

“In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life,” the pope told the crowd.

Then the faithful filled every seat at the stadium that April 21, chanting and waving white and yellow handkerchiefs in the Vatican’s colors. And in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000 strong, the pope celebrated mass.

“Young men and women of America, I urge you to open your hearts to the Lord’s call to follow Him,” the pope told the crowd of worshipers.

Ruben Loiz was there that day.

“I was feeling that the Lord was there; that God was, you know, really, really there,” Loiz said.

Jerome and Marilyn Martin remember the pope’s visit fondly.

“He’s a very, very good educator, and he writes beautifully,” they said. “And I think he will be remembered for showing a great deal of understanding and wanting to be welcoming to people.”

It was a much more solemn visit prior to mass, when the pope headed to ground zero and prayed at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“We ask in Your Goodness to give Eternal Light and Peace to all who died here,” he said. “We ask in Your Compassion to bring healing to those who suffer from injuries or illness.”

Throughout his visit, there was always a warm smile for New Yorkers.

“He was like a grandfather figure,” Carrozza said.

It was surprise for many for a person who had once been considered the feared chief enforcer of Vatican conservatism.

At every stop in New York, a standing room only crowd greeted him, making clear the impact a pontiff’s journey to New York can be for the Catholic Church.

Were you in the city when the pope visited? Share your memories below…