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Emotions run high as tens of thousands witness Pope Francis' procession through Central Park

Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he

Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he rides through Central Park in Manhattan on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers waited for hours for a chance to glimpse Pope Francis as his motorcade passed through Central Park in a 15-minute procession yesterday.

As Francis stood and waved to the 80,000 ticket holders admitted to the park, he ignited shrieks and screams of ecstasy and left tears in his wake.

"The energy was amazing. As soon as we saw him turn the corner, and we got a glimpse of the pope, everybody went berserk," said Vincenzo Fuduli, 48, of Westbury, who came with his wife, Sandra, 49. He said seeing the pope "felt almost like a blessing." For Sandra Fuduli, seeing the pope felt like "euphoria, just joy."

Standing in his popemobile as he entered the park at 5:15 p.m., emotion and joy gripped people as he passed them. Many of those admitted to the park had waited since late morning to secure a choice spot along the procession route. As the popemobile passed her, Lorraine Schiavi, 52, a legal assistant from Glendale, Queens, wiped away tears.

"I can't explain. I can't explain the feeling when I actually saw him," Schiavi said as she struggled to come to grips with her emotions. "It just hit me."

When his popemobile passed a new group or turned a corner, waves of cheers erupted anew. People screamed and held phones and cameras aloft. Parents thrust babies out over metal barricades, hoping the pope would stop to kiss or bless them.

Security flanked his vehicle as the pontiff greeted the masses. As he leaned and waved left and right, the arms of thousands of people reached out to receive him, waving flags and handkerchiefs and T-shirts toward him.

After the pope's motorcade left Central Park and headed south for evening Mass at Madison Square Garden, the thousands of spectators flooded the streets of midtown Manhattan. A disabled man being wheeled in a hospital bed and several elderly people with canes dispersed from the park among the throngs of people. Some wore the light blue and white striped soccer jersey of the Argentine national team, a nod to Francis' home country.

Iblyn Moya, 64, of Inwood, got in line at 1 p.m. and was cheered by the strangers she met and chatted with while she waited to get into Central Park.

She used the words so many who saw the pope used last evening -- "It was emotional."

As they all waited, the air around them buzzed with a collective positive energy, she said. "People were so nice. It felt really good," she said.

Though 80,000 tickets were given out in a lottery to those hoping to glimpse the pope, long lines, tight security and just four entrances into the park made getting in an hours-long process. Some of the thousands who were still waiting in line to get into the park not long before the pope's arrival gave up or were turned away.

Patricia Killian, clutching two small Vatican flags, said she arrived at the 66th Street check-in point just to be told she wouldn't be able to get into the park.

Killian, 55, of Park Slope, Brooklyn, a retired administrative supervisor with the NYPD, said she is Catholic and was so eager to see the pope that she awoke at 3 a.m. when the ticket lottery opened. She got to the park at 2:40 p.m., nearly an hour before her ticket said she had to pass through security.

Killian, standing with unticketed spectators in Columbus Circle, said, "They said there were too many people, they were filled to capacity."

Others decided to leave the line. Dina Prendergast of Brooklyn and Ciara Shea of the Bronx decided to ditch the line after waiting three hours to get into Central Park. They moved about seven blocks in that time, they said. "It seems like three days but it's been like three hours," said Prendergast, 33, a commercial litigation attorney, as she and Shea stood at West 64th Street and Central Park West. "I'm just going to hope to feel the pope's touch from this far away."

Prendergast and Shea's spirits were still high, despite the long wait. "He's a cooler pope than we've had in a while," said Prendergast. "I'm a Jew, so this is really a novel experience for me."

The day full of anticipation and waiting paid in emotional dividends for many, even though most spent mere moments in the pope's presence.

"It was all of 20 seconds," said Richard Murasso, 50, of East Rockaway, who arrived at 1 p.m. and was sporting a pope T-shirt under his blazer. "But it was worth the wait."

As a practicing Catholic, Pat Conaty, 47, a homemaker from Massapequa, said seeing the pontiff in person, even just for a few seconds, gave her hope. "It was like renewing," she said. "It was overwhelming to think, 'There he is, the closest person to Christ we have on Earth.' "

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