By Seth T. Gonzales
NEW YORK — It was a festive atmosphere in Central Park as 80,000 ticketed people lined police barricades to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis Sept. 25.
After visiting with third- and fourth-grade students at Our Lady of Angels Catholic School in Harlem, the pontiff made his way through Central Park en route to Mass at Madison Square Garden.
According to news reports, security officials had closed more than 30 blocks along Central Park West at 5 a.m. on Friday. Vendors sold t-shirts, buttons and miniature Vatican flags as those with tickets lined up outside the park and were admitted only after being screened.
According to the Central Park Conservancy’s Twitter account, they had until 3 p.m. to get inside before the gates were closed.
Inside, people clapped, chanted and sang as they eagerly awaited the pontiff.
As the wait continued, some began suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion as paramedics began removing people from the park.
At around 5 p.m., Pope Francis entered his popemobile and began his way through Central Park amid a throng of cheers, flags and iPhones.
Brooklyn resident Grace Cort recently had both of her knees replaced, but still managed to stand for hours waiting for the pontiff. By the time he arrived and passed by her, she was overwhelmed with tears.
“I’m not Catholic, but I’m Christian and I feel that this pope is the embodiment of Christ,” Cort said. “He’s humble and he speaks of all that the world needs right now.”
Kimberly Pratt and her husband, Tim, said seeing the pope was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them.
“I’m a teacher at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic School,” Kimberly said. “Being able to be here with this pope at this time where we’re at is wonderful. He’s an inspiration.”
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