Thursday, March 05, 2015

Cardinal Egan, Dead At 82

From New York comes the shocking news that Edward Cardinal Egan – the city's ninth archbishop and one of the global church's preeminent canonists, whose nine year tenure successfully tackled a host of urgent, unglamorous challenges, but saw many of the mega-diocese's most faithful left bruised in their wake – died suddenly this afternoon of cardiac arrest.

A month shy of his 83rd birthday, according to the archdiocese the Chicago-born cardinal was taken ill at his apartment in the city's Kips Bay neighborhood following lunch, and was rushed to the nearby NYU Langone Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2.20pm.

Named to succeed John Cardinal O'Connor within days of the titanic Philadelphian's death in May 2000, on his retirement nine years later, Egan boasted of being the first New York prelate to "get out alive" – that is, the first occupant of the chair in St Patrick's Cathedral and the residence at 452 Madison to leave both to his successor in a manner that wasn't his casket. (Above, the cardinal is shown on one of the happier nights of his administration: the 2008 Al Smith Dinner when the event's tradition was maintained with the presence of both presidential nominees at their sole joint appearance outside the debates. Below, Egan is seen introducing Benedict XVI to his close friend, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, outside St Patrick's during the then-Pope's visit in April 2008.)

While Egan's years in office witnessed historic tumult and controversy – and at times, extraordinary levels of rancor from below – on fronts ranging from 9/11 and New York's vaunted finances to clergy sex-abuse, parish closings and relations with his priests, in retirement the devoted opera buff and classically trained pianist who bitterly disdained the media during his tenure came into a new warmth and popularity as he began to open up in unexpected ways and often lent a quiet hand with the yeoman's work of the pastoral trenches. And with it, what might be the cardinal's greatest legacy likewise came to fruition in these last years, when the figure who was only "discovered" in Rome after Egan was forced to return home after the World Trade Center attacks was elected Pope.

Six years since Egan handed over the reins, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has scheduled a 3.30pm press conference in the "nation's church," in whose tiny underground crypt the Big Apple's Ninth Archbishop will be laid to rest alongside his predecessors. Funeral arrangements remain to be determined.

Developing – more to come.