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Sri Lanka bombings prompt NYPD to increase security outside churches

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said he directed state police to increase patrols around churches and other houses of worship "out of an abundance of caution."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said he directed state police to increase patrols around churches and other houses of worship "out of an abundance of caution." Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Security ramped up outside churches throughout New York on Easter Sunday following an attack on several houses of worship in Sri Lanka that left more than 200 people dead.

Sunday’s holy service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral — as well as the joyous celebration of colorful hats on parade outside — also followed a thwarted gas attack on the midtown church after the devastating fire in Notre-Dame Cathedral that destroyed parts of the historic Parisian church.

Before the Easter Mass Sunday morning, Cardinal Timothy Dolan greeted people outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, walking past armed police officers standing guard. During the service, he prayed for the people of Sri Lanka “who were massacred,” and noted a particularly moving image of a cross taken from above the wreckage of Notre-Dame, which indicated "that cathedral will be renewed. From the cross comes resurrection.”

The Easter Sunday celebration comes as nearly 300 people were killed and more than 500 others were injured in Sri Lanka during a series of explosions at three churches and three hotels popular with tourists in several cities in what has been called coordinated terrorist attacks, according to The New York Times

An NYPD spokesman said that the department had "implemented heightened security measures" at churches across the city, including "an overlay of CRC (Critical Response Command) and SRG (Strategic Response Group) resources and will make periodic visits to all houses of worship, giving special attention to those with Easter Services."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said he directed state police to increase patrols around churches and other houses of worship "out of an abundance of caution."

"During these troubling times, we will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of violence and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers," Cuomo added in a statement.

Dolan said that the church "speaks to the needs of the people" — and those needs often are rooted in "a lot of fear, a lot of trepidation, a lot of hopelessness, a lot of worry."

"Life is a blend of Good Friday and Easter Sunday … Every once in a while we’re blessed to have just joy, but most of the time it’s diluted a little bit," he added, when asked about Sri Lanka following the Mass. "These are great people — they knew there was a threat, they knew there were extremists out there. They said … we’re going to church. And it’s that kind of fortitude, that kind of hope, that kind of resilience that gives us all a taste of Easter."

An NYPD spokesman said that the department had "implemented heightened security measures" at churches across the city, including at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, on Sunday.
An NYPD spokesman said that the department had "implemented heightened security measures" at churches across the city, including at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, on Sunday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue filled with colorful hats and costumes in celebration of a sunny Easter Sunday. Lucinda Vidal, 24, of Waterbury, Connecticut — who worked on her hat for about a month, covering what was a plain white cowboy hat in yellow fabric and attaching scores of flowers — said she thought more people had come out than in years past.

"I feel like it’s a good thing that a lot of people are here today," she said. "I feel more people are aware of Easter and want to come show up anyway, regardless of what’s going on in the news and everywhere around the world. People just want to be together."

Upper East Side resident Mary Royer, 23, sported a hat decked out like a scene from the Disney movie "Moana" (Her family all wore Disney-inspired hats, their theme for this year). For her, the parade was about being together and enjoying everyone’s creativity. 

"There’s people from all over, everyone is out, everyone is having a good time," Royer said, adding: "I think you really have to value the time that you have with your friends and your family. And I’m really lucky to be with family today."

Upper West Side resident Ricardo Hijar, 45, soaked up the colorful parade after attending Mass inside the cathedral.

"This is the extra we get for fun," he said, watching the over-the-top hats go by. "Sometimes the solemnity of the Easter Mass gets buried in the celebration and it loses a little bit of importance. That’s why coming to the… Mass, I can see actually everything: people really into the Mass and really into the photos."

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