March 10, 2015 / 4:50 PM / 4 years ago

Egan funeral pays homage to late cardinal for his humility

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward Egan, the retired archbishop of New York who helped sustain the city after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was remembered for his humility at his funeral on Tuesday before a crowd filling St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

A woman prays during a viewing for the late Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop-Emeritus, during a viewing at St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan in New York, March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and former mayors Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins joined hundreds of clergy at a funeral mass led by Egan’s successor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Noting Egan’s aversion for eulogies, Dolan recalled his predecessor’s wish for a funeral focusing on the church rather than on himself.

“A eulogy would be so easy and natural, but he’d have none of it, and simply want us to confess our faith in God, rather than our gratitude to him, our departed Cardinal,” said Dolan, overlooking Egan’s casket, which was draped with a white and gold cloth at the front of the packed church, which seats 2,500.

The ceremony included choirs, bagpipers, drummers, and Metropolitan Opera soloists Renée Fleming and Matthew Polenzani.

Egan, the ninth Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, was entombed in St. Patrick’s crypt alongside his predecessors. He died last week of cardiac arrest at age 82.

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1932, Egan was ordained as a priest in 1957. He served as archbishop of New York, home to about 2.6 million parishioners, from 2000 until his retirement in 2009.

As spiritual head of Roman Catholics in New York, his tenure was marked by the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center during which he won accolades for his work. After the attacks, he presided over as many as three funerals a day.

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

He also encountered criticism for his handling of allegations of sexual abuse by priests 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, he retracted his apology, saying that he had done nothing wrong.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Bill Trott and Steve Orlofsky

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