NEW YORK (AP) — Cardinal Edward Egan, who anointed the dead, distributed rosaries and performed funerals after the World Trade Center attacks, lay in repose Monday in the vast stone cathedral where his voice once rang out from the altar.
His open casket rested on the altar steps at St. Patrick's Cathedral, tilted toward the pews and members of the public paying their respects.
Hands folded across his chest, with a rosary interlaced in his fingers, the former archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York was flanked by two uniformed police officers and two honorary guards representing the Knights of Jerusalem and the Knights of Columbus.
To the side was a huge bouquet of red roses with a gold ribbon that read "Beloved Uncle."
"He did a lot, a lot, because he believed they are all children of God," said Jose Pivar, a Mexican immigrant from the Bronx who had helped Egan with outreach programs to minorities.
"And now, he's an angel, but he's still here with us," said Pivar, tapping his palm over his heart.
Egan died Thursday of a heart attack at age 82. With the title of archbishop emeritus, he retired in 2009 after nine years of leading the archdiocese, which serves 2.6 million Catholics in about 400 parishes in parts of the city and its northern suburbs.
His funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at St. Patrick's, followed by interment in a crypt below the altar. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who succeeded Egan as archbishop, is to celebrate the Mass.
Egan, who was born in Oak Park, Illinois, was a tall, imposing man with a voice so deep that his nieces joked he sounded like Darth Vader. He was known for his love of classical music, bringing a piano to the archbishop's Madison Avenue residence and the finest musicians to church services. Soprano Renee Fleming sang at his installation in 2000 at St. Patrick's.
An authority on church law and fluent in Latin, the cardinal was one of just a few experts chosen by Pope John Paul II to help with the herculean job of revising Code of Canon Law for the global church, while navigating the maze of Vatican politics.
He later oversaw an unpopular overhaul of New York church finances amid a multimillion-dollar debt.
One of the highest prelates in the Roman Catholic Church was dogged by a public perception of him as a reserved, sometimes cold personality.
"Yes, he was cold, he was distant," Pivar acknowledged. "But underneath was a warm man who did a lot for people."
Pivar said the cardinal helped immigrants get jobs and fit into American culture, urging employers to pay more than minimum wage. Egan also organized encounters between races in neighborhoods that experienced hostilities, Pivar said.
On Monday, Egan's remains were displayed under massive metal scaffolding erected over and around the altar for renovations to the cathedral, which is the seat of the New York archdiocese.