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Mario Cuomo may have been known as the greatest orator-governor of New York since Al Smith, but apparently his son outdid him today.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a eulogy at the end of the funeral Mass for his father that may have been longer than the homily itself.
The younger Cuomo, who was sworn in for a second term as New York’s chief executive on Jan. 1, the day Mario died at age 82, spoke for more than 40 minutes.
"At his core, he was a philosopher. He was a poet. He was an advocate. He was a crusader. Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels," Cuomo told a gathering of some 800 mourners, including former President Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and a panoply of current and former New York State and federal officials.
Cuomo’s use of the term “keynote speaker” likely was a reference to his father’s role in the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a keynote address that cast Ronald Reagan’s vision of America as a “city shining on a hill” in doubt. Cuomo, speaking at the convention that nominated Walter Mondale, preferred to paint a “tale of two cities” and called for greater government intervention for those who are struggling.
Today’s requiem Mass was held in the ornate St. Ignatius of Loyola Church on Manhattan’s upper East side, where several of Cuomo’s children are parishioners and where some of his grandchildren have gone to school. St. Ignatius’s pastor, Jesuit Father George Witt, drew laughter from those gathered when he told them it was a struggle to keep the Mass a simple affair according to the expressed desire of the former three-term governor.
"This has been hard to pull off, but for those who knew him well, his desire comes as no surprise," Father Witt said, according to a report in USA Today. "For despite the great successes of his career, Mario Cuomo was fundamentally a humble man and a man of great faith in God."
Witt said Cuomo was a "great family man," pointing to his 60 years of marriage to his wife, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, and their five children and 14 grandchildren.
"He loved you all so very deeply," Witt said. "And he, along with your mom led you constantly through word and example, through thick and thin to a family life rooted in Christ, rooted in Catholic education and faith."
Cuomo served as governor from 1983 to 1994, and became known for “powerful appeals for social justice that blended liberal ideals with his personal experience as the son of an Italian immigrant grocer, for an intellectual nature given to discoursing on Jesuit philosophy along with discussing public policy,” according to an AP report today.
Vice President Joseph Biden attended the wake for the former governor Monday evening, but President Obama remembered Cuomo in a statement that included this:
An Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service – and we are all better for it.
CBS News noted that even after hours of greeting mourners, Cuomo’s widow, Matilda Cuomo, still managed to smile and offer a bit of wit. "He’s up there, telling God what to do. He’s working with God now," she said.
There was no indication from media reports that anyone at the wake or funeral discussed Cuomo’s seeming contradictory stances regarding two life issues. While he fiercely opposed capital punishment, he declined to try to influence abortion laws, even as he claimed to be personally pro-life. Father Witt has not returned a request for comment.
But Cuomo likely will be remembered for the issue for quite some time. Columnist Cal Thomas wrote today on a
Fox News website:
“On the issue of church and state, Cuomo bisected the subjects in his Notre Dame speech,” wrote . “While he said he accepted Catholic teaching against capital punishment, he rejected its opposition to abortion. In this, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin expressed opposition to both issues while eloquently arguing that the Catholic Church believes that each is part of a "
seamless garment" of life and that all life matters and should not be taken by individuals, or the state.
“This is another flaw of progressivism,” Thomas wrote. “Progressives are happy to embrace church teachings when it favors their political agenda, but reject them when those teachings don’t conform to their politics.”
statement Jan. 2, honoring Cuomo’s memory:
Although he was Governor of New York long before I arrived here as archbishop, I had the pleasure of meeting and corresponding with Mario Cuomo on numerous occasions, and always found him to be a keen observer of the issues facing our city, state, and country. He was always ready to share his insights about the state of the Church as well, and it was obvious to me that he was intensely proud of his Catholic faith. My prayerful condolences go out to his loving wife, Matilda and the family. We thank them for sharing their husband and father with the city, state, and nation, and we praise God for the 82 years we had him.