NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s Christmas in New York City, and many people are packing into one of the most famous cathedrals in the area to celebrate Christmas Day service.
Inside St. Patrick’s, there was flickering candles and solemn prayer. But outside, the police presence could be felt, with additional fencing and law enforcement on patrol.
NYPD stepped up patrols at New York City churches after ISIS called for attacks targeting places of worship and other holiday gathering sites over the weekend.
However, heightened security didn’t put a dent in many parishioners’ holiday plans.
“It’s something unfortunately we’re learning to live with more and more,” one man from Texas told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “I don’t worry too much about it, I honestly don’t — our security’s very good.”
Authorities have said no credible threats have been issued in the area.
The halls of St. Patrick’s cathedral were packed on Christmas Eve, with crowds of Catholics filling the pews throughout the holy night.
“It’s very special because I think the atmosphere and the music is very nice, and I love it,” Wilma Biarans said.
Pope Francis led the traditional midnight mass at the Vatican, while Timothy Cardinal Dolan led New Yorkers at midnight — his message heard by hundreds.’
The Pope gave a somber message, urging Catholics to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking about the plight of today’s children. Francis spent most of this year appealing to people around the world to better protect the innocent caught in the crossfire of war.
Thousands also gathered in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to celebrate Christmas. Outside Manger Square, the Christmas festivities brought a boost of holiday cheer as the faithful listened to holiday songs and sang carols.
Sitting with family among the glistening candles and wreaths of red and green is a sacred tradition for many,.
“Every year, we come,” Meghan Schul, of Lynbook, said. “We light candles for our grandparents who passed away. My dad’s a retired fireman, but he was at 9/11, so he comes and lights candles for their families.”
Christmas mass started early Sunday morning, with services to be held through 5:30 p.m.