MIDTOWN — The weather was crisp and the crowd electrified during the 79th annual Columbus Day Parade on Fifth Avenue Oct. 9.
There were marching bands, dancers, traditional folk music, and floats festooned with Italian flags, including one from the Diocese of Brooklyn. All celebrated the contributions of Italian immigrants.
As in recent years, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams stopped by the reviewing stand in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Still, something was missing — the exuberant presence of Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the reviewing stand.
But he knew a few weeks back that he’d still be at the synod at the Vatican on Columbus Day, so he asked Bishop Robert Brennan to fill in for him.
“Cardinal Dolan called me this morning from Rome specifically to ask me to welcome you,” Bishop Brennan told the packed cathedral. “He is doing important work at the synod, and we need him there. But I can tell you, his heart is right here.”
Bishop Brennan made his comments while celebrating the 46th annual Columbus Day Mass before the parade. Concelebrants included his predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio, and the auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese.
Bishop Brennan said Cardinal Dolan also asked him to share his deep concerns for victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, and to pray for them.
“Today we’re united in a very particular way with our Jewish brothers and sisters here in the city of New York and really with all the people in Israel,” Bishop Brennan said after the Mass. “I pray for those being held hostage, especially children, and pray for their safe return.
Thousands of onlookers lined Fifth Avenue as the parade stepped off, including Father Nunzio Pomara of Sciara, Sicily, about 25 miles south of Palermo.
Father Pomara helped concelebrate the Mass and then joined his host, Francesco Azzara of the Bronx, for the parade.
The priest said his English was very limited, but he knew enough to say he was very excited to attend the Mass and parade. Azzara, also from Sciara, explained why.
“They always talk in Italy about this Columbus Day feast and parade,” he said. “So we invited him to come over to see our community here. And he was very impressed.”
The float from the Diocese of Brooklyn was topped, as it is every year, with a statue of St. Frances Mother Cabrini. Herself an Italian immigrant, she helped scores of fellow newcomers, especially children, achieve better lives in the U.S.
Bishop DiMarzio happily climbed aboard the Diocese of Brooklyn’s float as it paused before the reviewing stand.
Joining him on the crowded float was Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg and the diocese’s vicar for development.
Bishop Brennan saw them off and waved to the students on the float who represented Catholic academies from throughout the diocese.
Then he returned to the reviewing stand to continue his promise to Cardinal Dolan.