NEW YORK (AP) — Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York who oversaw a broad and sometimes unpopular financial overhaul of the archdiocese and played a prominent role in the city after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, died Thursday. He was 82.
Egan died of cardiac arrest at a New York hospital, the archdiocese announced. He had survived polio as a child, which affected his health as an adult, and also used a pacemaker.
In 2000, Egan was chosen by Pope John Paul II for the difficult job of succeeding larger-than-life Cardinal John O’Connor, who was a major figure not only in the city, but in the country. From him, Egan inherited an annual deficit of about $20 million. Egan was forced to make tough decisions to cut spending — including laying off staff — and said he wiped out the shortfall within two years.
Yet, Egan bristled at the suggestion that he was more a manager than shepherd. In a 2001 interview with The New York Times, he said, “I am about, first and foremost, serving 413 communities of faith,” he said, referring to the archdiocese’s parishes.
On Sept. 11, then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called Egan for help, and the cardinal spent the day anointing the dead, distributing rosaries to workers as they searched, mostly in vain, for survivors. Egan later presided over funerals for the victims, sometimes three a day.
The cardinal was the target of criticism when he left the grieving city for a Vatican synod, a monthlong international meeting of bishops convened by the pope. Egan, who was to work as an aide to John Paul in leading the meeting, said he asked repeatedly for permission to stay in New York, but the pope said Egan was needed in Rome. The cardinal called that time, when his loyalty to the city was questioned, “the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.”
An expert in church law and fluent in Latin, Egan served on the Roman Rota, a tribunal of Vatican judges who hear appeals in church law cases, such as marriage annulments. He was one of just a few experts chosen by John Paul to help with the massive job of reviewing the revised Code of Canon Law for the global church.
Egan, a native of Oak Park, Ill., retired as New York archbishop in 2009.
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