- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

From combined dispatches

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church was remembered as Catholics in the Washington region celebrated Easter Sunday. The Archbishop of Washington offered special prayers for the health of Pope John Paul II at the two Masses where he served as principal celebrant.

“We had 1,500 at Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral; it was standing room only,” said Susan Gibbs, the spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick also officiated over the noon Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the Americas.

“The shrine was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it,” Miss Gibbs said.

Cardinal McCarrick, 74, the spiritual leader of 560,000 Catholics living in the District and Southern Maryland, said throughout the day that he is concerned about the friend and colleague who elevated him to the post of cardinal in February 2001.

“He said a special prayer for Pope John Paul II and his health, and he also prayed for Terri Schiavo and all those who are ill and in God’s hands,” Miss Gibbs said.

Other Christians gathered under overcast skies on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to observe the holy day with a sunrise service.

“We are here to proclaim to our city, nation and world, joyfully, powerfully and boldly, the Resurrection of Christ,”said the Rev. Amos A. Dodge, senior pastor at Capital Church in McLean.

Yesterday marked the 27th year that Capital Church has held the interdenominational service. An estimated 5,000 turned out.

Many of those in attendance got up at about 5 a.m. to make it in time for the 6:34 a.m. service.

“I have two more services to go to today,” said Kimberly Quanstrum, 24, of the District. “I was also at an Easter vigil last night, so I got about an hour of sleep, but it was worth it. I just go from service to service with a cup of Starbucks.”

The clouds and 44 degree temperatures did not dampen the spirits of the attendees, even though the marble steps of the memorial were cold and wind picked up slightly during the service.

Most of those who attended the service traded in the traditional Easter bonnets for ski caps and their Sunday suits and dresses for coats and blankets to keep warm. Throughout the service, worshippers looked toward the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool to see the sun slowly rise behind the clouds.

“You all look great, and you even look a little bit warm all bundled up like that,” Mr. Dodge told the worshippers.

Mr. Dodge focused on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and spoke about Terri Schiavo.

“It’s always our job to contend for life — that’s what Jesus did,” he told worshippers.

The Staffords are from Indianapolis and have spent Easter Sunday in the District for the past 10 years. They attended Capital Church’s sunrise service for the first time yesterday.

The Staffords said they will most definitely take part in the sunrise service in the future.

“It was awesome,”Beth Stafford, 43, said. “We are definitely doing it again.”

Other worshippers honored Easter by serving a hot dinner to homeless men and women.

Volunteers at the Central Union Mission in Northwest expected to feed more than 100 people. “We have about 1,000 volunteers in our database,” said Kelli Davis, a mission spokeswoman.

Dozens of churches in the District and its suburbs in Northern Virginia and Maryland provide money, equipment, food and volunteers to the 121-year-old facility. Preparing and serving a typical meal takes about 15 volunteers.

• Amy Doolittle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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