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Cardinal Dolan Emphasizes Redemption In Westchester County Jail Visit

Cardinal Dolan embraces a prisoner after the Mass service. Photo Credit: Aaron Miller
Cardinal Dolan and County Executive Astorino greet prisoners after the Mass service. Photo Credit: Aaron Miller
A view of the Mass service, above which hangs a mural painted by an inmate. Photo Credit: Aaron Miller

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Archbishop Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan honed in on the message of redemption while visiting Westchester County jail, where he held a holiday Mass service on Monday.

Dolan, who typically visits around five correctional facilities during the holiday season, encouraged the 125 male prisoners in attendance at the mass to take advantage of the chance to absolve themselves from sin.

“A lot of folks are tempted to think we don’t need redemption,” Dolan said after the hour-long service held in a gymnasium. “Well, these folks know they need redemption.”

County Executive Rob Astorino, in attendance with several other local officials, echoed Dolan’s message of persevering through dark times.

“They're going through a really difficult time in their lives, and the message from the Cardinal was that if you pray, if you repent, the world awaits you,” Astorino said. “Hopefully they get through this tough time, but when they come out, they’re better for it.”

Praise was directed towards one inmate, who painted a mural depicting the New Testament’s Annunciation, which was hung at the entrance. Daniel Ortega, the 37-year-old artist, expressed overwhelming gratitude on the part of the inmates.

“It was powerful,” Ortega said. “I can’t believe (Cardinal Dolan) visited us honestly. I was very special to me and a lot of other people here.”

The service included inmates of all faiths who were in good standing with the facility.

After the Mass, Dolan visited female prisoners at the facility, which holds 1,068 inmates. He expressed hope that the prisoners heed to his message as Christmas approaches.

“They see so much darkness in their lives,” Dolan said. “Their prayer, their worship, seeing people express solidarity: I hope that brings them light.”

The prison last saw such a high-profile event in 2003 when Dolan’s predecessor, Archbishop Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, visited the facility.

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