"My favorite part was when Cardinal Dolan put his red hat on my head," 8-year-old Joe Liberatore Jr. said.
Hundreds of New York area pilgrims poured into the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Inside the 4th-century church, Cardinal Timothy Dolan led his first mass as a prince of the Catholic Church.
His mother, who today met the Pope, attended the mass.
"He looked at Mom and said, 'You look way too young to be the mother of a Cardinal.' Is that beautiful?" Cardinal Dolan told his audience.
"I'm here for the semester. And I've seen Pope Benedict before. But to see someone from home here, who has done such wonderful things for New York. It's just a wonderful experience," Erin Daverese of Pelham Bay said.
During their trip, the pilgrims worshipped in four papal basilicas - an honor organized and arranged by Cardinal Dolan.
"It's so amazing when sit up there and you see all this artwork that's been up there for hundreds of years. It's kind of mind-boggling," Noreen Berardino said.
"A pilgrimage is special not only to where you are going, but because it is a reflection, a mirror of what life is... a pilgrimage from God back to God," Cardinal Dolan explained.
Cardinal Dolan had hoped to celebrate mass inside the Roman church assigned to him by the Pope on Saturday, but it could not accommodate the large number of pilgrims. Cardinal Dolan returns home on Tuesday, just in time to lead New Yorkers on another very holy day - Ash Wednesday.
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