Hundreds say final farewell to Edward Cardinal Egan

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MANHATTAN (PIX11) -- With a traditional Roman Catholic funeral taking place beneath the scaffolding of a St. Patrick's Cathedral under renovation, Edward Cardinal Egan was laid to rest before a congregation that included three former New York City Mayors, the current Mayor, Bill deBlasio, and New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, along with many other dignitaries.

Cardinal Edward Egan smiles to the crowd gathered outside St. Patrick's Cathedral after celebrating his final Easter mass as archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York April 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Cardinal Edward Egan smiles to the crowd gathered outside St. Patrick's Cathedral after celebrating his final Easter mass as archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York April 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The chief celebrant of the Mass was the bishop who succeeded Egan in 2009, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. He noted that Cardinal Egan always wanted his funeral Mass to be about God and the faith.

"He was a churchman," Dolan said during his ten minute homily. "A churchman."

Dolan did make one joke, revealing that Cardinal Egan did not like eulogies, even at his own mother's funeral.

When Egan was leaving the altar, Dolan related, after celebrating a Mass for his late mom, a niece tapped him and said "Uncle Eddie, you forgot the eulogy! You have to go back."

Egan's reply, according to Dolan, "Mom didn't like eulogies, neither did her son. Let's go!"

Cardinal Egan's request for a straightforward, Roman Catholic funeral was honored--although this service was attended by hundreds of priests, dozens of bishops, and Cardinals from around the country.

Renee Fleming, soloist for the Metropolitan Opera, sang a stirring rendition of "Ave Maria" after communion. Earlier, she had joined another opera soloist, Matthew Polenzani, during a performance of "Panis Angelicus."

Edward Cardinal Egan died last Thursday in his east side residence of cardiac arrest.

He had served as Archbishop of New York from 2000 to 2009, a tumultuous time in the city and in the Roman Catholic Church. He was very successful in getting the archdiocesan finances in order, although to do that he was compelled to close some schools and churches.

He offered comfort to first responders and families after the 9/11 terror attacks.

A year later, he was summoned to Rome with other U.S. cardinals by Pope John Paul II to address a sex abuse crisis among some American clergy.

A year before Egan retired, he hosted a triumphant visit to New York by Pope Benedict XVI that included prayers in a local synagogue and a huge Mass at Yankee Stadium.

A representative for Pope Francis I read a brief statement near the end of the service, and Egan's grand-nephew, Brian Egan, thanked the people of New York on behalf of his Illinois-born uncle.

"New York can't be beat," Brian Egan said, quoting his uncle.

St. Patrick's Cathedral was packed.

Two police commissioners were also in attendance, including former P.C., Raymond Kelly, and the current leader at One Police Plaza--William Bratton.

At the end of the service, Cardinal Egan's body was committed to the crypt beneath the altar at St. Patrick's. Egan was such a tall man that pall bearers had a difficult time negotiating the turn by the staircase into the crypt.

A priest for more than 50 years, the ninth Archbishop of New York, a long-time canon lawyer and brilliant fundraiser, received the spiritual send off he requested.

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