City Bids Farewell To Cardinal Egan

O HAPPY DAY. Cardinal Egan outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Cardinal Edward Egan’s time as leader of one of the nation’s largest archdioceses was haunted by the unfolding child abuse scandal, shocked by the terror spectacle of Sept. 11, 2001, and troubled by a period of fiscal uncertainty and parish closings. But Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop emeritus, 12th bishop, ninth archbishop and seventh cardinal of the See of New York, steadied the archdiocese’s finances, managed increases in school and parish enrollments and walked with New Yorkers as they struggled to overcome an unprecedented trauma. He died of a heart attack on March 5 at the age of 82.

Pope Francis offered his condolences in a telegram to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. “I join you in commending the late cardinal’s noble soul to God, the father of mercies,” the pope said, “with gratitude for his years of episcopal ministry…his distinguished service to the Apostolic See and his expert contribution to the revision of the church’s law in the years following the Second Vatican Council.”


For the Rev. Jonathan Morris, parish administrator of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the Bronx and a media commentator, Cardinal Egan was the grandfatherly archbishop emeritus who welcomed him into a new role as a diocesan priest of New York. He worked closely with Cardinal Egan to develop Sirius Radio’s Catholic Channel.

Cardinal Egan did not always find the programs on the channel to his tastes, said Father Morris, “but he told me, don’t program it for what an old bishop likes, but think about the people who need to hear the Gospel in a way they can accept and be attracted to it.”

Cardinal John O’Conner was a difficult act for the former bishop of Bridgeport to follow, Father Morris said, “and he didn’t try to imitate him.” Instead, “he was an analytic and precise manager,” skills that served the archdiocese well, he said, and set it on a long-term path of fiscal health that freed his successor of a heavy burden.

America’s editor in chief, Matt Malone, S.J., commented, “New York has lost a good and holy pastor. America magazine has lost a true friend.” Father Malone added, “He ordained me a priest just before I took over as editor in chief. He opened doors for me in this city and elsewhere, always championing our work and all the ministries of the Jesuits. He was a quiet, but truly generous man.”

America’s church correspondent, Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M., remembered in a post on the magazine’s website how the cardinal “may have had one of his greater moments as a churchman during 9-11 at ground zero.” She wrote, “On that September morning Cardinal Egan began days of ministry to workers, injured and deceased.... On the scene he risked contamination to the point that each night he had to get rid of all the clothes he wore—even his shoes.”

Just a few days after the attack, before hundreds of people crammed into St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a Mass of mourning, he had urged a level-headed response to a stunned and grieving nation. “I am sure that we will seek justice in this tragedy,” Cardinal Egan said, “as citizens of a nation under God in which hatred and desires for revenge must never have a part.”

Cardinal Egan was born on April 2, 1932, in Oak Park, Ill. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on Dec. 15, 1957. In 1988 he was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport by Pope John Paul II. In 2000 he was appointed archbishop of New York and made a cardinal in 2001.

Like many in the U.S. church, Cardinal Egan struggled to come to terms with the sexual abuse crisis. His handling of cases in Bridgeport and New York was criticized, though he supported and helped implement the zero-tolerance policy that eventually became the official stance of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

In this image made from video, Archbishop Philip Wilson, center, heads to Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, Australia Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
Philip Wilson was found guilty of failing to inform police about allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by a priest in the 1970s.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 22, 2018
The Holy Spirit might be the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity.
James Martin, S.J.May 21, 2018
Pope Francis walks past cardinals as he leaves a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 28, 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis is trying to ensure that those who elect his successor are humble men committed to “a church of the poor and for the poor.”
Gerard O’ConnellMay 21, 2018
James Martin, S.J. discusses this groundbreaking exhibition with Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute and C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
America StaffMay 21, 2018