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Christians Around The World Celebrate Easter

Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter Sunday (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter Sunday (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New Yorkers and visitors from around the world descended on St. Patrick’s Cathedral on this Easter Sunday.

It was standing-room only inside St. Pat’s as Cardinal Timothy Dolan delivered his Easter Mass.

As CBS 2’s Steve Langford and 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported, Dolan compared Jesus Christ’s resurrection to the rebirth of the Catholic church under a new pope.

“The Church, with a capital C, is undergoing renewal, repair, resurrection. I kind of think we’re seeing it today in a particularly fresh and new way with our beloved new Holy Father,” said Dolan.

There was also vintage Dolan, cracking jokes about the size of the crowd on hand, Schuck reported.

“Boy oh boy, we’ve got people back there and…the ushers know that to get the collection basket back there, don’t they, monsignor?” said Dolan.

Hundreds got to the famous cathedral early on Sunday. One woman said she drove up last night from Pennsylvania to celebrate the day in New York.

“We think it’s one of the most holy days that we can celebrate and it’s a family tradition for us since we were children to attend Easter services and that’s why we’re here,” the woman told Schuck.

Steve and Susan Turner from Toronto said they got up before dawn to make sure they got a seat inside St. Pat’s.

“Catholic guilt would get the best of us if we weren’t at Mass on Easter Sunday,” Susan Turner told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller.

Turner said this is one of the most important and holiest days of the year for her.

“Spring renewal, starting fresh,” she said.

Before Mass, a group of some 85 high school students from Grand Haven High in Michigan stood together on the steps at St. Pat’s at sunrise to offer their prayer in song.

Meanwhile, some New York Metro area churches took a high-tech approach to sharing their Easter celebrations.

Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue held a live-streaming Webcast of its services, as it does every weekend. Marble Collegiate is the oldest Protestant organization in North America.

The historic Trinity Church on Wall Street also put its Easter services online. Trinity was founded in 1697.

And outside St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral on the East Side, there was an annual “release of the doves” ceremony to symbolize love and peace.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released an Easter message on this holy day.

“Today, New Yorkers across the state will gather with family and friends to celebrate Easter. For New Yorkers of Christian faith, this is a day of reflection as well as an occasion to celebrate rebirth and new opportunities. As we work towards a stronger and more just New York, let us come together in that spirit, so that all can look forward to a brighter future here in the Empire State. To all the New Yorkers celebrating this special Sunday, I offer my sincerest blessings and wish you a happy and warm Easter,” the statement read.

Parishioner At Easter Mass At St. Patrick's Cathedral (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Parishioner At Easter Mass At St. Patrick’s Cathedral (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Pope Francis Delivers First Easter Homily
This was also Pope Francis’ first Easter Mass as pontiff.

Francis delivered a plea for peace in his first Easter Sunday message to the world, decrying the seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula after celebrating Mass along with more than 250,000 faithful.

After the Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Francis shared in the crowd’s exuberance as they celebrated the belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead following crucifixion. Aboard an open-topped popemobile, Francis took a lighthearted spin through the joyous gatherers, kissing babies and patting children on the head.

One admirer of the pope and the pope’s favorite soccer team, Argentina’s Saints of San Lorenzo, insisted that Francis take a team jersey he was waving at the pontiff. A delighted Francis obliged, briefly holding up the shirt.

Since the start of his papacy on March 13, Francis has repeatedly put his concern for the poor and suffering at the center of his messages, and the Easter speech he delivered from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica reflected his push for peace and social justice.

He said he wished a “Happy Easter” greeting could reach “every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons.” Francis prayed that Christ would help people “change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.”

As popes before him have, he urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks and end a conflict that “has lasted all too long.” And, in reflecting on the two-year-old Syrian crisis, Francis asked, “How much suffering must there still be before a political solution” can be found?

The pope also expressed desire for a “spirit of reconciliation” on the Korean peninsula, where North Korea says it has entered “a state of war” with South Korea. He also decried warfare and terrorism in Africa, as well as what he called the 21st century’s most extensive form of slavery: human trafficking.

Francis, the first pope from Latin America and a member of the Jesuit order, lamented that the world is “still divided by greed looking for easy gain.” He wished for an end to violence linked to drug trafficking and the dangers stemming from the reckless exploitation of natural resources.

Earlier, wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis celebrated Mass on the esplanade in front of the basilica at an altar set up under a white canopy.

The sun competed with clouds in the sky Sunday, but the square was a riot of floral color in Rome, where chilly winter has postponed the blossoming of many flowers. Yellow forsythia and white lilies shone, along with bursts of lavender and pink, from potted azalea, rhododendron, wisteria and other plants.

Francis thanked florists from the Netherlands for donating the flowers. He also advised people to let love transform their lives, or as he put it, “let those desert places in our hearts bloom.”

The Vatican had prepared a list of brief, Easter greetings in 65 languages, but Francis didn’t read them. The Vatican didn’t say why not, but has said that the new pope, at least for now, feels at ease using Italian, the everyday language of the Holy See.

Francis also has stressed his role as a pastor to his flock, and, as Bishop of Rome, Italian would be his language.

Many Americans said Francis needs to address the priest sex abuse crisis, and restore the church’s credibility in the United States.

“I would definitely like to see him tackling that as one of his top priorities,” said Demarie Constable of Las Vegas.

In a pre-taped interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer for “Face The Nation,” Cardinal Dolan reflected on the meaning of the day and the new pope. Dolan said he’s hopeful Francis will help restore people’s faith in the church.

“More and more people are saying, ‘you know what, I don’t have trouble with God. I don’t have trouble with Jesus. I don’t have trouble with faith. I do have some troubles with the church.’ That’s a major challenge, not only for us as Catholics but for the other revealed religions,” Dolan told “Face The Nation.”

Dolan also discussed the papal conclave, the voting process and what it means to so many to have an Argentinian pope.

“I can’t go anywhere in New York City where I’ve got people from Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Puerto Rico, who are coming up in tears saying, ‘we have a Latin American Pope.’ It’s a real shot in the arm for us as Catholics,” said Dolan. “That is one of the most exciting events in my whole life and I think it’s going to take me a long time to work through it and to process it. It was a combination of nervousness, intimidation, awe, a real genuine experience of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and at the end, a sense of resolution, peace and excitement.”

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