Easter Mass returns to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50% capacity

Easter Mass returns to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50% capacity

April 4, 2021

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The traditional Easter Mass returned to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday — but at 50 percent capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions.

After going all-virtual last year amid the global pandemic, Cardinal Timothy Dolan opened the doors of the historic Fifth Avenue cathedral to the faithful — and even snuck in a few extras.

“Last year, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t mind an empty tomb on Easter morning but an empty church?’” Dolan said. “Forget it.

“So, to see the folks back, even though we’re still limited to 50 percent capacity — don’t tell anybody, I’m afraid we went a little over that today, but we were very careful — sure means the world,” he said.

“And to know that hundreds of thousands are united with us from home, that’s the church’s job,” the cardinal said. “To get out the good news about the resurrection of Jesus.”

The cathedral, which has a capacity of 2,200, offered reserved tickets for half of the seats as allowed — with more than 200 gathered outside.

But Dolan opened the doors to everyone outside to fill the seats of ticket-holders who were no-shows shortly before the 10 a.m. Mass — and even had folding chairs set up for an overflow audience.

“No one was turned away,” Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told reporters.

Still, social-distancing guidelines were in place: Worshippers wore masks and filled some of the pews, with two empty ones for each one that was filled.

Programs for the Mass were not printed out and left in the pews — as has been the tradition in years past — but were online, with attendees instructed to download them.

“I am very excited about being here on Easter,” said Olga Gruscinska, a Manhattan doctor who attended the service. “We want to get back out of our cage and celebrate together with people here, sitting next to each other. It means a lot.”

Her companion, Claudine Holt, a doctor from Murray Hill, agreed.

“We showed up early with our tickets and no line,” Holt said. “That was a first!

“This is my favorite time of year,” she added. “I’ve come every year since moving to New York, and the first Easter Mass at St. Patrick’s I’ve missed was last year.”

Dolan delivered Mass virtually from inside an empty cathedral last year.

“I come every Easter for the past 22 years,” said Paola Isabella Rocha Tornito, a design consultant from Manhattan. “I only missed one, last year. There was no Mass, and it was terrible.”

Still, the pandemic put a damper on some other traditional Big Apple Easter festivities this year.

Its annual Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival had to go virtual for the second straight year. To commemorate the 150-year-old tradition this year, worshipers were asked to post pictures of their Easter wardrobe on the cathedral’s Instagram.

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