Rush to finish St. Patrick's Cathedral renovation ahead of Pope's visit

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Lucy Yang has the details. (WABC)

When Pope Francis visits New York City in late September, he will lead evening prayers at St. Patrick's Cathedral. And workers are stepping up the pace of the cathedral's renovation project.

Of course, Timothy Cardinal Dolan said blessings before all the workers broke bread outside St. Patrick's Cathedral Thursday.

"God bless these men and women that have done such magnificent artistic work," said Cardinal Dolan.

The early July 4th picnic was a thank you gesture from the Cardinal because the workers and artisans have been racing against the clock to renovate the grand 5th Ave Catholic Cathedral.

When they began the $175 million renovation 3 years ago, no doubt St. Pat's was in dire need of help.

More than 100 years of grime, pollution, and decay had taken its toll.

The plaster was dark and crumbling, ornamental details were in distress. But when it was announced that the Pope was now planning to visit in September and say vespers here, everyone went into overdrive, working longer hours and coming in on Saturdays.

"That sense of pride and drive and craftsmanship of these fellas, that's why I wanted to let them know how grateful I was to them," said Cardinal Dolan.

Peter Cuffy helped renovate, repair, even replace all the ornamental details in the grand cathedral.

He learned something amazing when he got up on the scaffolding. There are hundreds of sculpted flowers there and each one is different.

"I couldn't do these things unless I got real inspiration from the spirit of God, that's a fact," he said.

The magnificent bronze doors that will welcome the Pope had to be painstakingly cleaned by hand. Artisans used special bronze and copper tools to scrape off seven sticky layers of paint.

They even needed toothbrushes to get into the crevices.

Another perk of the renovation, St. Pat's is now much brighter on the inside and outside. The walls are no longer dingy grey. They are shades of ivory.

Plus, after cleaning all 75 stained glass windows, more light filters in. The sound is also much clearer after all 9,000 pipes on the organ were polished and re-tuned.

The whole project will not be finished by September. But the areas the Pope will see when he says evening prayers here will be free of scaffolding and shining like new.
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religionreligionpope francischurchcatholic churchMidtownNew York City
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