Easter messages include prayers for Boston Marathon

Easter messages include prayers for Boston Marathon
Marathon runner Joe Warfield of Oklahoma City participates in an Easter service at the Old South Church on Sunday in Boston. Runners received a blessing one day before the 118th Boston Marathon.

Across the USA, the faithful prayed on Easter Sunday for students lost in last week’s South Korean ferry disaster, for President Obama and for a safe running of Monday’s Boston Marathon, ravaged last year by a deadly bombing.

In New York City, Cardinal Timothy Dolan marked Easter by praying amid massive construction scaffolding. The city’s Roman Catholic archbishop celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, where restoration work surrounds the altar as part of a $175 million project to fix cracks and clean walls darkened by decades of soot and pollution.

Dolan prayed for the young people who died in the South Korean ship sinking and for two children who perished in a fire late Saturday night in Queens, N.Y.

In Boston, where city officials tightened security for Monday’s marathon, churches commemorated the victims of last year’s bombing. Old South Church held its traditional Blessing of the Athletes, The Boston Globe reported. The congregation calls it a way to “pray down God’s blessings on the athletes” and keep them safe from harm.

Nearby, Trinity Church hung prayer flags made from pieces of cloth covered with handwritten prayers and “peace blessings.”.

In Washington, President Obama and the first family joined about 250 people at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. Churchgoers rose and applauded as the Rev. Derrick Harkins announced the Obamas’ presence, according to a pool report.

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Harkins urged everyone to join in prayer and offered thanks to God for providing comfort to those in need, including the sick and struggling. He asked that God give Obama “every measure of encouragement” and “wisdom” and “tend to his spirit” under the weight of criticism.

Afterward, congregation members moved toward the Obamas, snapping pictures and trying to get close to the family. Obama high-fived a baby boy and hugged and kissed women. First lady Michelle Obama blew kisses.

Contributing: David Jackson, Associated Press.