MIDTOWN — Tens of thousands of people lined the sidewalks along Fifth Avenue to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as he traveled to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Thursday evening vespers.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan escorted the pope to the front of the cathedral where he was met by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Chuck Schumer. The pope waved to the crowd before walking slowly up the cathedral's stairs.
The pope addressed several contentious issues during his homily, including the ongoing priest sexual abuse scandal and role of women in the church.
He said he was with the congregation "at this time of pain and difficulty."
Later he said he wanted to "express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States."
He added that women were on the "front line" of spreading the gospel.
Danielle Brociuk, 17, traveled from Staten Island to see the pope pass him along Fifth Avenue.
"It was a really really good experience," Brociuk said. "I'm definitely going to remember it for the rest of my life."
Roy Bernardo, 64, traveled up from West Palm Beach with his three grandchildren after winning tickets to see the pope lead Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday.
"As a Catholic it's good for the soul," Bernardo said while standing with his grandkids along Fifth Avenue. "It's better to go here than Rome."
Marcia Azeredo, 54, who came from East Elmhurst to see the pope, said she hoped he would speak more about immigration during his visit to New York.
"I've always had [immigration] papers, but in the neighborhood where I live I watch people who don't have it easy. I wish the pope would embrace that more. He has a big voice and can reach out to many people."
Azeredo added that being near the pope would make her feel "a little closer to Jesus Christ."
Jole Cuyer, 80, traveled from Minnesota to see the pope in Washington, D.C. and New York.
"I feel much holier and closer to God [when I am near the pope]. He's the next best thing to God," Cuyer said. "I'm going to be here all day tomorrow too. The more the better."
The pope is making his first trip to New York City and will address the U.N. General Assembly Friday morning. More than 80,000 are expected to turn out for his processional through Central Park later in the day.
Pope Francis will also visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum after leaving the U.N. Friday morning.
Later in the day he will hold a procession through Central Park before celebrating Mass in Madison Square Garden.