Cardinal Egan funeral draws crowds to NY's St. Patrick's Cathedral

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2015 12:48 PM

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crowds gathered at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Tuesday morning for the funeral of Cardinal Edward Egan, the retired archbishop of New York who helped sustain the city in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Egan, the ninth Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, will be entombed in St. Patrick's crypt, where his predecessors also have been laid to rest. He died last week of cardiac arrest at age 82.

Mourners had poured into the cathedral on Monday afternoon to pay homage to the cardinal, who lay in an open coffin before the church's gold altar.

Visitations continued on Tuesday ahead of a 2 p.m. EST funeral mass to be officiated by Egan's successor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1932, Egan was ordained as a priest in 1957 and consecrated bishop in 1985. In 2000 he was appointed archbishop of New York, one of the nation's most visible archdiocese with about 2.6 million parishioners.

As spiritual head of Roman Catholics in New York, Egan oversaw an increase in the number of registered parishioners, drawing in another 200,000 faithful, according to a statement by the archdiocese.

His tenure was marked by the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center during which he won accolades for his work. Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani summoned him to lower Manhattan to provide support to the injured and the cardinal spent the following days distributing rosaries to workers as they searched for survivors. He later presided over as many as three funerals a day.

But the church leader also drew fire for his fierce managerial style as he closed or merged many churches and parishes in a successful effort to restore financial stability to the debt-ridden archdiocese.

He also encountered criticism for his handling of allegations of sexual abuse by priests under his jurisdiction while serving as bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, from 1988 to 2000.

Critics said Egan was slow to act and allowed offending priests to continue working.

The diocese later agreed to pay nearly $40 million in settlements to dozens of people who claimed to have been abused by priests since the 1960s.

Egan first apologized, saying in a letter to parishioners that he was "deeply sorry." After retiring in 2009, however, Egan did an about-face and in an interview retracted his apology, saying that he had done nothing wrong.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott)