Cardinal Edward Egan, former New York archbishop, dies at 82

By Ellen Wulfhorst
Cardinal Edward Egan waves to the crowd in front of St. Patricks Cathedral during the annual Easter Parade in New York, in this file photo taken April 16, 2006. REUTERS/Keith Bedford/Files

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cardinal Edward Egan, a former Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, who won praise for his leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks but was criticized for his handling of a clergy sex abuse scandal, died on Thursday at age 82.

Egan, considered an expert in theology and canon law, was pronounced dead at 2:20 p.m. (1920 GMT) at NYU Langone Medical Center, where he was taken after eating lunch at his residence, the archdiocese said in a statement. The cause of death was cardiac arrest.

As archbishop of New York from 2000 to 2009, Egan was praised for the role he played as spiritual leader of the city's Catholic community after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

"Cardinal Egan spread love and knowledge, and brought comfort to countless New Yorkers and others across the country and the world who sought his guidance and counsel – especially in the aftermath of 9/11," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

Born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1932, Egan was ordained a priest in 1957 and consecrated a bishop in 1985. Egan was appointed by Pope John Paul II to the College of Cardinals in 2001.

In 1988, he was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he came under fire for how he handled allegations of sex abuse by priests under his jurisdiction.

Critics say Egan failed to report the allegations to authorities, sought to cover up the claims and allowed offending priests to continue working.

The diocese eventually paid nearly $40 million to settle dozens of claims of abuse by priests from the 1960s through mid-1990s.

Egan apologized in 2002, saying he was "deeply sorry" about mistakes the diocese may have been made.

After he retired as archbishop of New York, Egan reversed course, saying he had done nothing wrong while presiding over the Bridgeport Diocese and that he regretted making the earlier apology.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)