NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – People from across the world, and from right in the Tri-State, flocked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral this Christmas Day for an inspirational mass.
As CBS2’s John Dias reported, it is an annual holiday tradition for many.
Thousands of people stopped by the cathedral to take part in mass or snap some photos. Some said they just wanted to make the cathedral a part of the holiday, but others were focused on prayer over presents on Christmas Day.
“It is the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Steven Beaumont, who was visiting from Florida. “The presents and all are nice, but they come later.”
“There’s always time for God,” another worshiper said.
A traditional midnight mass was held early Christmas morning. Other masses were also held throughout the day, with a full mas schedule in place.
A throng celebrated, but one person who was unable to attend was Timothy Cardinal Dolan. New York’s Archbishop has the flu.
Bishop John O’Hara, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, filled in for him.
Before becoming ill, Dolan recorded a Christmas message, urging the world not to give up, after what has been a difficult year of natural disasters and political turmoil.
“Every year, you’re wondering if we can keep at this. But believe me, hope will triumph over despair. Faith will triumph over doubt. And light will triumph over darkness,” Dolan said.
Some worshipers, such as Laura Butler, walked from their Manhattan apartments to be part of the mass at the cathedral.
“We come here periodically,” Butler said. “We like it. It’s like a New York staple. It’s so vibrant.”
Others visited from afar and planned their holiday vacation around it.
“It’s nice yeah. The organ is fantastic. Church was packed,” said James McKeon.
And of course, inside the more-than 135-year-old building, there was plenty of praying and singing. But there were also several armed officers.
“I think that they’re just doing a great job protecting us,” Beaumont said.
Officials insisted there is no credible threat to the Tri-State Area, but the NYPD is not taking any chances in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.
“All of this feels safe, yeah — New York City,” said Jimmy Roldan of West New York. “I feel pretty safe. I see a lot of police around.”
The NYPD has dispatched Critical Response Command officers with bomb-sniffing dogs, both inside and outside the church.
“I saw a couple of things where they were asking people to move and clear the exits and make sure everyone was safe,” a worshiper said.
Many New Yorkers said they saw the tight security coming. So did a lot of out-of-towners, such as the Quinns, who were visiting from Ireland.
“We never really thought much about any terrorist activity or anything coming here,” said Bairbre Quinn. “It’s worldwide now. You can stay at home and something can happen.”
But the Quinns and many others trusted that the NYPD had it all under control.
For additional security reasons, police also closed down many roads – including 50th Street near Rockefeller Center.