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The Deacon's Bench

The new archbishop of New York wasted no time getting to know the locals — taking in a ball game, visiting a food pantry, and rubbing elbows with his new flock.

From the New York Daily News:

After a week of lavish ceremonies, Archbishop Timothy Dolan set aside his regal robes Friday and got down to the business of meeting the masses.

Making his first stop on what he promises will be a jam-packed tour of the Archdiocese of New York, the city’s new Catholic leader spent the morning at a food pantry in the poorest section of the Bronx.

Dolan acknowledged that there had been “a lot of pomp, a lot of ceremony, a lot of prayer and a lot of ritual” in the past few days, with celebrations at St. Patrick’s Cathedral attended by high-ranking church officials and politicians.

The spiritual leader added that was just one aspect of the Catholic Church, and the real work starts now. “It’s also [about] the people,” he said. “And this is where the church is really alive, in a place like this.”

Dolan was mobbed by well-wishers who snapped photos, threw their arms around him and beamed at the sight of the jovial 59-year-old, who spoke in English and a little Spanish.

“It’s so good to see him,” said Apolonia Valois, 75, who picked up her food parcel from Dolan. “For him to come to the Bronx for the first time, I can see everybody feels so good. He asked me how I feel, and I said I feel so happy.”

The archbishop helped the teams of workers who distribute free food every week at the West Bronx Community Center in Highbridge. They give out thousands of free nutritious meals across the borough each year through a partnership between Catholic Charities and the Rusty Staub Foundation.

“I’m happy, happy,” said a delighted Anna Rodriquez, 76, after she got to give the archbishop a big bear hug. “He is so friendly.”

Staub, a former Mets baseball star, said he was honored that Dolan chose to spend his first morning of face-to-face Catholic duties with his organization.

“He obviously has a tremendous amount of energy,” Staub said. “I think that’s going to be a blessing. It was an honor to stand next to him and watch the wonder and awe in some of their eyes.”

Later, Dolan visited Citi Field, where the Mets were taking on the hometown team of his former parish, the Milwaukee Brewers.

“[I want] to learn, to listen, to shake hands, to meet people, to hear them dream,” Dolan said. “That’s a greater lesson than reading briefing reports, or reading histories.

“This is going to be constant for me,” he added, “because I really enjoy doing this.”

Meantime, a local TV station has this report about his visit to the food pantry, up in the Bronx, along with a video report. Take a look.

PHOTOS: by Simmons/Daily News

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