Cardinal John O'Connor's birthday party tonight turned into a major fund-raiser for the New York Archdiocese--as well as a gathering for some of his possible successors.
The dinner in honor of the cardinal's 80th birthday raised $5.2 million for Catholic charities, including support for parochial schools in the archdiocese and funding for a seminary position named for the cardinal.
Included among the 1,500 people invited were several men whose names have been mentioned as O'Connor's possible successor: Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis; Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, who heads the archdiocese for the U.S. military; and Bishop Henry Mansell of Buffalo, a former top aide to O'Connor.
The dinner featured tributes to the cardinal, a speech by O'Connor and a video about his legacy.
O'Connor said he anticipates being relieved of his post in the near future.
"I will soon be evicted. I don't know when it will be," said O'Connor, drawing several standing ovations and many laughs during his 15-minute speech. "I will have the distinction of bring the first living cardinal to be thrown out."
O'Connor, who had a brain tumor removed in September, is the oldest active bishop in the United States and is regarded as one of the most powerful Catholics in America. The pope is expected to replace him now that he has turned 80, the age at which cardinals lose their power to vote for a new pope.