Cardinal Timothy Dolan led a morning prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Saturday morning.
Dignitaries including Gov. Mario Cuomo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended the service.
The cardinal then celebrated mass at St. Patrick's at 4:00 p.m.
Just one week ago in Vatican City, Pope Benedict elevated Dolan to Cardinal, along with 21 other men.
He returned in time to mark the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Dolan wore a cardinal's traditional red cap. But his vestments were purple, symbolizing Christ's suffering for the 46-day period of sacrifice and penance leading to Easter.
Earlier on his first full day at home, he distributed bags of food to the hungry at Manhattan's St. Francis of Assisi Church.
Compared to those struggling to make ends meet, "the fact that I'm wearing red amounts to a hill of beans," Dolan said of his new status - and the clothing accompanying the highest position in the church besides pope.
Thousands packed the cathedral on Wednesday for the noontime Mass or to have their forehead marked with Lenten ashes - some by the cardinal himself.
At the cathedral's massive entrance portal, Jeanne Howard waited for eight relatives from Massachusetts to attend the Mass.
"I think he's a great person," she said of Dolan.
By contrast, she added, his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, "was a nice person, but he just didn't have a New York personality - you know, outgoing and friendly."
She said she felt Dolan's new status as cardinal was "prestigious."
For New York, "it's all a plus," Howard said.
The Mass ended with a roar of applause from worshippers packing the pews, with some standing in back and filling side aisles.
When asked later whether he was tired and jet-lagged after a weeklong marathon of rituals and socializing in Rome and New York, Dolan said, "The people sustain me. When I walk out and see a jam-packed St. Patrick's Cathedral ... that's what perks me up."
His message to the city's faithful was to "get back to basics: prayer, sacrifice and acts of love."
And what was the cardinal sacrificing for Lent?
"You're not supposed to tell!" the hefty Dolan answered with a hearty laugh.
But he offered a hint: "Maybe at Easter you might be able to notice."
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