NEW YORK—Cardinal Edward Egan was God’s servant and worked tirelessly for parishes, charities, health care and education, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Tuesday at a funeral Mass for one of the most powerful prelates in the global Roman Catholic Church.
Dolan told the 2,500 people packing St. Patrick’s Cathedral that Egan “was uncomfortable with eulogies” but Dolan went on to praise him nonetheless. He said Catholics from fellow cardinals to “God’s good people” could tell of “consolation given on and after 9/11, prayers offered, sick visited, prisoners encouraged, children taught, immigrants welcomed, and parishes strengthened.”
“Now this Church thanks God for him and commends his noble, priestly soul to the everlasting mercy of Jesus,” Dolan said.
Egan died Thursday after a heart attack. A Vatican theological force, he led the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York for almost a decade, including on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center and more than 2,700 died. In the days and weeks that followed, Egan performed many funerals.
Tuesday’s music-filled service got off to a noisy start with drummers and bagpipers from New York City’s police and fire departments accompanying a funeral procession along the blocked-off streets around the cathedral in midtown Manhattan.
In the packed cathedral, amid construction scaffolding, solemn church music took over as several hundred Catholic clergy, including almost a dozen cardinals and archbishops and about 30 bishops, walked slowly down the center aisle toward Egan’s casket, draped in white and gold at the foot of the altar. Several of Egan’s relatives took part in the Mass.
In the pews were Gov. Andrew Cuomo and four New York mayors: incumbent Bill De Blasio and former mayors Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins.
International opera stars Renee Fleming and Matthew Polenzani sang Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” and Fleming sang Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Fleming was a friend who sang at Egan’s installation in 2000. Outside, police barriers held back crowds. Metal detectors were placed at the cathedral’s entrances.
After the Mass, the casket was lowered into a crypt below the altar, where archbishops and other notable Catholics have been entombed.
At a viewing attended by thousands Monday and Tuesday, Egan lay in the vast stone cathedral where his rich, booming voice once rang out — his hands folded across his chest, a rosary interlaced in his fingers.
With the title of archbishop emeritus, Egan retired in 2009 after nine years of leading the archdiocese, which serves more than 2.6 million Catholics in about 400 parishes in parts of the city and its northern suburbs.
The cardinal, born in Oak Park, Illinois, was an authority on church law and fluent in Latin — one of just a few experts tapped by Pope John Paul II to help with the herculean job of revising the Code of Canon Law for the global church, while deftly navigating the maze of Vatican politics.
He later oversaw an unpopular, thorny overhaul of New York church finances, eliminating a multimillion-dollar debt.
By Verna Dobnik, Associated Press