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Renovations At St. Patrick's Cathedral Wrapping Up As Pope Francis' NYC Visit Looms

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The massive renovation at St. Patrick's Cathedral is nearly complete.

Crews are putting the finishing touches on the landmark church just in time for Pope Francis' visit in September.

As CBS2's Elise Finch reported, after nearly four years, the scaffolding has been removed from St. Patrick's Cathedral both inside and out.

There's very little evidence of the multi-phase renovation, yet every inch of the building has been restored.

Each column was cleaned using a latex that gets painted on and pulled off two days later, gently removing decades-old dirt, Finch reported.

Every pew was removed, sanded and re-stained and each stain-glass window thoroughly cleaned.

"The church's purpose is to let the grace and light of God's word shine forth in a very colorful way; stained-glass windows personify that. And now it does it, right! Now the sun is coming through," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Dolan led a brief tour of the cathedral, looking on as Galeros -- the red hats popes used to give to cardinals -- were put back on display.

Renovations At St. Patrick's Cathedral Wrapping Up As Pope Francis' NYC Visit Looms

Like so many other items in the cathedral, the fragile, century-old silk and wool were taken down, cleaned and restored.

"We had to take the organ apart so that we could actually do the restoration. So we took every single pipe out and the pipes measure from 37 feet tall to three-quarters of an inch," said project architect Rolando Kraeher.

There is still some construction work happening at the cathedral, but officials said overall the restoration project is ahead of schedule and on budget, Finch reported.

"It's like a landmark and the money is well spent to keep it going and keep it in great condition for as long as possible," said one resident.

But while some Catholics were thrilled with the renovations, others were wondering if some of the money set aside for the renovation could have kept their neighborhood church from closing.

"They should have spread it out around the community," one woman said.

"We need the church open," said another.

"I think that criticism might have a little bit of validity if this was about luxury, and if it were about embellishing a cathedral," Dolan said. "This was about pretty basic repair. In other words, if we didn't do it the safety and the future of the cathedral was at risk."

The $17 million restoration was originally scheduled for completion in December, but the timetable was moved up for the pope's visit.

The one thing that won't be finished in time for the pope's visit is a geothermal heating system. So you'll still see scaffolding on the sides of the cathedral on 50th and 51st streets.

Pope Francis will be in New York from Sept. 24 through Sept. 26. He will address the U.N. General Assembly, attend a service at the Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum, visit Our Lady Queen of Angels school in East Harlem and hold Mass at Madison Square Garden.

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