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News >  Nation/World

Sunday Mass returns to New Orleans church

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – Churchgoers gathered to pray at the historic St. Louis Cathedral, convening in the building described as the “soul of the city” for its first Sunday Mass since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans more than a month ago.

Emergency workers and soldiers – many of them out-of-towners who descended on Louisiana in the aftermath of the hurricane – mixed with newly returning residents as they prayed for the resolve to carry on.

One man, standing in the back of the church, said to himself as if in prayer: “Welcome back, New Orleans.”

Louisiana Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes spoke of the more than 900 people who perished and offered hope for those who remain to face rebuilding a region that still has some floodwaters, scattered power outages and wind damage.

“This is indeed an historic moment in the life – not only in the church of New Orleans but in the whole city,” Hughes said. “The structure which harbors the soul of our city has come back to life. … Thanks be to God.”

The church was bright, as light shining down from the balcony made the altar’s gold accents glitter. Candles burned on the altar and brightly lit chandeliers hung from the ceiling painted with religious pictures.

“The St. Louis Cathedral is a symbol that really unites all of our city, and this is what we’re going to need to move forward,” archdiocesan spokesman the Rev. William Maestri said before the Mass began.

Some churchgoers shed tears during the service, as the choir and congregation sang hymns about finding shelter in a storm and getting through dark times. The communion hymn contained the lyrics “I am hope for all who are hopeless … I will bring you home.”

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