Head Of N.Y. Archdiocese Soaks In Love, Jokes About What To Give Up For Lent

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Newly appointed Cardinal Timothy Dolan got right back to it on Wednesday, celebrating his first Mass in New York since returning from the Vatican.

But before observing Ash Wednesday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dolan spent the morning passing out sandwiches to the homeless at St. Francis of Assisi in Midtown.

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“What a beautiful place to be and what a beautiful priority to emphasize, that the Church isn’t about pomp and privilege and prestige, it’s all about love and charity and sharing and generosity,” Dolan told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports

Several hundred hungry New Yorkers got a brief, private audience with the church’s newest cardinal and many were touched that he would take the time.

“It means he’s real, that’s what it means,” said Charles Hoefling. “He got back from Rome and the first place he came was this church and he wanted to feed the homeless and God bless him for doing that.”

“I think he’s great. His personality brings a lot of happiness and fulfillment to the people of New York,” Tracee Robinson told CBS 2’s Brown.

Dolan returned from Rome just in time lead Catholics in observing Ash Wednesday, a holy day that marks the beginning of Lent, a six-week period of repentance and sacrifice leading up to Easter.

PHOTOS: Elevation Of Timothy Dolan

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His first homily back home was brief, but he hoped inspirational, with a focus on starting fresh. It’s a message he said is particularly fitting.

“On Ash Wednesday, I always center on that message of Saint Paul. We have the same reading every year where Paul says ‘today is the acceptable day, now is the time of salvation,'” Dolan said.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan hands food to the homeless outside St. Francis of Assisi - New York, NY - Feb 22, 2012 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)

Timothy Cardinal Dolan hands food to the homeless outside St. Francis of Assisi in New York on Feb. 22, 2012 (credit: Rich Lamb/WCBS 880)

Cardinal Dolan said he knows his new role invites additional pressures, but so far he seems to be taking them in stride.

“You can see how nervous and shy I am and that I’ve stopped eating and everything because of all this pressure … Nah, ha ha,” the cardinal joked.

And although he famously enjoyed the cuisine while in Italy, Dolan is rumored to be giving up pasta for Lent in the spirit of sacrifice.

But when asked, he joked that perhaps he’ll give up something else.

“You know what I’m going to give up? Listening to the presidential debates,” Dolan laughed. “Or maybe I should do it for penance, who knows?”

Dolan’s busy scheduled continues throughout the week. On Saturday, there will be a big home-coming service followed by Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

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