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Biden watches sunrise, attends church to open 2023 in USVI

CHRISTIANSTED, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — President Joe Biden opened the first day of the new year by watching its first sunrise and attending Mass at a Roman Catholic church in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Biden worshipped Sunday at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Christiansted, where he has attended religious services during his past visits to the island of St. Croix.

Asked about any New Year’s resolutions as he exited church, Biden replied, “Good year next year. Looking forward to it.” He flashed a thumbs up.

Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, woke up at 6:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise from the secluded beach outside the home where they are staying in the Solitude Bay area of St. Croix, White House officials said.

A holiday tradition of theirs while on the island has been to join scores of residents at Point Udall, the easternmost point on the island, to watch the first sunrise of a new year. Biden, who travels with a heavy security presence, stayed away on Sunday.

He spent New Year’s Eve at the home, which is owned by their friends Bill and Connie Neville.

Before time ran out on 2022, Biden and the first lady wished their fellow Americans a happy new year during a taped appearance on Saturday’s broadcast of ABC’s “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.”

Asked about his message for 2023, Biden said “optimism.”

“I’ve never been more optimistic about America in my whole career. And you know, the interesting thing is we’ve been through so much, so much difficulty, the pandemic, through a whole range of things. Look at how the American people fought back and they got up. There’s nothing that can hold them down. We’re the most unique country in the world, we’re a product of possibilities. That’s what we believe in and so I just think, I’m really optimistic.”

The first lady encouraged people to “commit to an act of kindness” and “ to take care of one another and especially take care of your health this year.”

“Go get that COVID vaccine and get your flu shot,” she said.

Biden has kept a relatively low profile since arriving on St. Croix after dark last Tuesday.

His first public appearance came Friday when he and his grandson Hunter, 16, played golf at The Buccaneer Hotel and Golf Resort in Christiansted.

Later Friday, the Bidens taped the appearance with Seacrest and then took Hunter and his sister, Natalie, 18, to dinner at one of the island’s best restaurants.

Biden was scheduled to return to the White House on Monday.