By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) – After all the speeches were over and the VIPs had gone home, Pope Benedict XVI had a final U.S. send-off from 36 grade-schoolers in Virginia.
Homemade cards from the third- and fourth-graders of St. William of York Catholic School in Stafford, Va., were given to the pope aboard his Alitalia plane after he left New York April 21.
The cards, made of colorful construction paper, offered a spiritual bouquet and birthday wishes to the pope, who turned 81 during his April 15-20 visit to Washington and New York.
Adorned with drawings of birthday cakes, self-portraits, a rosary and a giant heart, the handwritten cards pledged prayers for completion of a safe trip.
"Dear Pope Benedict, I am praying 2 glory bes for you every day. I am honored that you are visiting my state," said one card.
"Thank you Holy Father for all you have done for the Catholic faith," said another. "We love you as God loves us."
The cards were nothing fancy, except for one girl who constructed a miniature pop-up vase with instructions: "You may put a flower in here and put it in your room." A smiley-face completed her message.
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