21 APRIL 2008

Click here for a photo gallery of Pope Benedict's historic six-day visit to the US

There was a party atmosphere in the air as Pope Benedict XVI rounded off his six-day trip to the States by celebrating an open air Mass in front of 55,000 at New York's Yankee baseball stadium.

The head of the Catholic Church was met by a sea of people waving yellow and white handkerchiefs - the official papal colours - and who had been performing Mexican waves in anticipation of his arrival. At the event, for which demand for the free tickets far outstripped availability, there were also performances by jazz musician Harry Connick Jr and gospel singer Kim Burrell.

After the service the Pope headed for JFK airport, where Vice President Dick Cheney hosted a farewell ceremony attended by former President Bill Clinton and his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A final cheer went up as the pontiff boarded a specially chartered plane back to Rome and uttered his parting words to assembled well-wishers: "God bless America".

Earlier the Pope had been welcomed by huge crowds as he celebrated Mass at Ground Zero, the site of two of the September 11, 2001, attacks. There he prayed for the rescuers and victims. He also met 24 people with links to the tragedy, taking time to chat with each of them.

The Pope's historic trip, his first to the US since being elected, has dominated the worldwide media and been hailed as a great success by analysts. It coincided with the pontiff's third anniversary of his election to the papacy and his 81st birthday.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The open air Mass was the pontiff's final engagement of his historic six-day tripPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Demand for tickets to the service at the packed baseball stadium far outstripped availability Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Earlier the Pope said Mass at Ground Zero and met some of those who'd been directly affected by the tragedyPhoto: © Getty Images