An overflow crowd of more than 3,000 packed into St. Patrick's Cathedral Sunday to attend the Easter Mass during which Cardinal Timothy Dolan told the faithful that Jesus Christ is alive today.
In his homily, the cardinal said, when asked in a recent interview who was the most influential person in his life, he had answered: "That's easy. Jesus Christ." When the reporter said that it had to be someone alive today, Dolan said, "My answer is still Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is alive."
The cardinal said that the Easter resurrection reminds Christians that Jesus wasn't a glorious historical figure who left behind a rich tradition of faith but rather a presence who is alive, this very moment.
Dolan, the head of the Archdiocese of New York, joked that, despite the crowds, even he can't compete with the size of new Jets quarterback Tim Tebow's congregation. Tebow, who is devoutly religious, spoke at a Texas church Sunday in a service that drew about 15,000 people.
Dolan also prayed for healing for four police officers, including two from Long Island, who were wounded in a Brooklyn shootout Saturday night. All four are expected to recover and the two from Long Island were treated and released from the hospital.
Outside St. Patrick's, bright, carnival-like crowds in colorful clothes and bunny ears filled the street, many turned away from the service but still enjoying the sunny weather.
Congregants said they appreciated the humanity of Dolan.
"I think that he understands people and is much more grounded than many priests," said Jean Casey, a lawyer from Chicago, who was here this weekend to visit her sons, and saw Dolan for the first time.
Diana Fisher, 44, of Manhattan, said she goes to St. Patrick's all the time and has seen Dolan's Masses before. "He is very stern," she said. "But his words are very simple. There is nothing complex in the way he says it. Anyone can understand."
She said Easter is about "a renewal of life. It's not about the flesh but about your spirit."
Dolan reiterated his stance that the U.S. government is engaged in a "dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the church" with its recent decisions on contraceptive coverage.
Some religious organizations protested when President Barack Obama moved to mandate that religious-affiliated institutions include free birth control coverage in their employee health plans. Obama later said religious employers could opt out, but insurers must pay for the coverage.