- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2006

Christian worshippers filled area churches yesterday to celebrate Easter, drawn by the springlike weather that for many symbolized life returning to nature and to Jesus Christ, whom they believe arose after being crucified more than 2,000 years ago.

One of the biggest turnouts was at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast, where more than 4,200 worshippers filled the pews and stood shoulder to shoulder in the long aisles from noon until nearly 2 p.m.

They were welcomed and thanked by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, who performed the service and urged them to attend Mass every Sunday.

The cardinal also held a packed 10 a.m. service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on Rhode Island Avenue Northwest and later one for Spanish-speaking followers.

Thousands also attended services at Washington National Cathedral in Northwest and a sunrise service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that was sponsored by the Capital Church in Vienna, Va.

Many of those who attended services for Easter, among the holiest of Christian holidays, left their jeans and sneakers at home for suits and pastel-colored dresses. Little girls wore frilly dresses and bonnets while little boys wore jackets and neckties.

Cardinal McCarrick, who postponed his retirement upon the urging of the Vatican last year when he celebrated his 75th birthday, enjoyed telling a story about children who he asked to explain the meaning of Easter.

“A young man said Easter means winter is over,” the cardinal said.

“I asked a little girl, and she said: ‘Jesus is not dead any more,’” he said. The cardinal agreed, emphasizing that Jesus returned to life three days after he was crucified.

Cardinal McCarrick, who recently urged national officials to devise a peaceful policy for United States immigration problems, asked yesterday that gentleness and love be used to deal with international problems.

“We cannot see with eyes of faces,” he said. “But we see with eyes of faith.”

The service ended after priests walked through the shrine, sprinkling holy water on those attending.

Chief Charles H. Ramsey of the Metropolitan Police Department attended the service at the shrine but went largely unnoticed because he wore a suit and tie instead of a police uniform.

The night before Easter, about 1,200 people were baptized as Catholics and took Holy Communion. The Archdiocese of Washington has about 560,000 members.



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