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Cardinal Edward Egan, Retired Archbishop of New York, Dies of Heart Attack

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John Burger - published on 03/05/15

Served in Big Apple from 2000-2009

Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who oversaw the Archdiocese of New York in a time of belt-tightening and scandals—as well as a decade of healing for a city hit hard by the 9/11 attacks—died Thursday. He was 82.

The Archdiocese of New York said in a statement the cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Pope Francis on Friday sent a telegram to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, expressing his condolences:

“Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the faithful of the Archdiocese," Francis wrote. "I join you in commending the late Cardinal’s noble soul to God, the Father of mercies, with gratitude for his years of episcopal ministry among Christ’s flock in Bridgeport and New York, 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. To all assembled in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the Mass of Christian Burial, and to all those who mourn Cardinal Egan in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.”

"Thank God he had a peaceful death, passing away right after lunch today, with the prayers and  sacraments of his loyal priest secretary, Father Douglas Crawford, in his residence at the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary," Cardinal Dolan said in a statement Thursday. "He was rushed to NYU Langone Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 2:20 pm this afternoon. Join me, please, in thanking God for his life, especially his generous and faithful priesthood."

Cardinal Egan was the first archbishop of New York to retire rather than die in office. The tall, erudite cardinal kept a relatively low profile compared to the newsmaking Cardinal John O’Connor, his immediate predecessor. It was widely believed that Pope John Paul II had sent Egan to New York to straighten out the archdiocese’s financial difficulties. Through cuts in staffing, closing or merging parishes and schools and by raising millions from corporations and wealthy laymen, he made the Archdiocese and its various agencies debt-free, according to a statement on the archdiocesan website, which listed some of the highlights from Cardinal Egan’s nine-year tenure:

The number of registered parishioners increased by 204,000, the budget of Catholic Charities more than doubled, enrollment in Catholic elementary and secondary schools grew by 15,400, the Archdiocesan newspaper became the largest in the nation…. In 2001, Cardinal Egan opened a new facility for the Saint John Neumann Seminary and Hall in Yonkers, New York. In 2004, he established the John Cardinal O’Connor Residence for retired priests of the Archdiocese in the Riverdale area of the Bronx. In 2006, he inaugurated the “Catholic Channel” on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, providing Catholic programming twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the United States and Canada. In 2008, he authorized and funded the construction of a new campus ministry center at New York University in Manhattan. Likewise in 2008, on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Diocese (later, Archdiocese) of New York, Cardinal Egan had the honor of welcoming His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, to New York for a Pastoral Visit that included the celebration of Mass by the Holy Father in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Yankee Stadium as well.  

The cardinal had a deep, sonorous voice, and in his homilies he often brought in elements of Church history to drive home a point.

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