Cardinal Edward M. 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, 2001, terrorist attacks, died March 5 in New York. He was 82.
Cardinal Egan, who retired in 2009 after nine years as archbishop, was pronounced dead at a hospital, and the cause was cardiac arrest, the archdiocese announced. As a child he survived polio, which affected his health as an adult, and he also used a pacemaker.
In 2000, he was chosen by Pope John Paul II for the difficult job of succeeding Cardinal John O’Connor, who was a major figure in the city and the country. Cardinal Egan inherited an annual deficit of about $20 million. He cut spending, laid off staff and said he wiped out the shortfall within two years.
Cardinal 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,” referring to the archdiocese’s parishes.
On Sept. 11, 2001, after a call from New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the cardinal spent the day anointing the dead and distributing rosaries to workers as they searched, mostly in vain, for survivors. Cardinal Egan later presided over funerals for the victims, sometimes three a day.
He was criticized when he left the still-grieving city for a Vatican synod, a month-long international meeting of bishops convened by the pope. Cardinal Egan, who was to work as an aide to John Paul there, said he asked repeatedly for permission to stay in New York, but the pope said Cardinal Egan was needed in Rome.
In a 2011 interview with the Associated Press, the cardinal called that time, when his loyalty to the city was questioned, “the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.”
In 2008, the year before he was succeeded by Timothy M. Dolan, Cardinal Egan hosted Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff’s historic visit to New York.
Cardinal Egan was a tall, imposing man with a voice so deep that his nieces joked he sounded like Darth Vader. He was known for his love of classical music, bringing a piano to the archbishop’s residence in New York. Soprano Renee Fleming sang at his installation in 2000 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
But unlike many previous New York archbishops, he did not embrace the chance for a large public presence in New York. He rarely gave news interviews. He was derided by critics as cold and distant.
In 2002, at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis that scandalized Catholics throughout the country, Cardinal Egan was accused of responding insufficiently to allegations of abuse earlier in his career as bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. He wrote a letter to parishioners apologizing for any mistakes in responding to victims and stopping abusers.
“It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “If, in hindsight, we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”
A decade later, the cardinal told Connecticut magazine, “I should never have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong.”
Edward Michael Egan was born April 2, 1932, in Oak Park, Ill. He received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., then completed studies for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained there in 1957. He eventually earned a doctorate.
He first became a U.S. bishop in 1985, starting as an auxiliary bishop in the New York archdiocese when O’Connor was the leader. Three years later, Cardinal Egan was named to head the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.
An expert in church law and fluent in Latin, he 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 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.
A complete list of survivors was not immediately reported.