VATICAN CITY (RNS) Members of the New York City Fire Department on Saturday (Nov. 10) presented Pope John Paul II with the helmet of their chaplain who died Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center while assisting his flock of firefighters.

"I offer a warm welcome to the delegation from the New York City Fire Department, so many of whose members lost their lives in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11," the pope told the New York delegation at the end of a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

"May Almighty God grant the bereaved families consolation and peace and may he give you and your fellow firefighters strength and courage to carry on your great service to your city," John Paul said in English.

"With the promise of my continued prayers, I invoke upon you and your families God's abundant blessings."

The eight-member delegation presented John Paul II with the white helmet of fire department chaplain Mychal Judge who died in the Twin Towers disaster while administering last rites to one of his firefighters. Judge was Roman Catholic.

A photograph of Judge being carried out of the disaster zone lifeless appeared in newspapers and periodicals around the world in the days after the attack.

The New York delegation was in Rome also to attend a pro-American demonstration organized by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative Forza Italia party and to express thanks for Italy's solidarity with the United States.

The Italian Parliament last week voted to send 2,700 troops and a number of ships to the Gulf area.

The meeting with John Paul came at the end of a Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica for 30,000 mostly Italian volunteer workers in honor of the United Nations' International Year of the Volunteer.

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