Connecticut bishop may succeed Cardinal O'Connor

Bishop Egan has ties to New York, Vatican

May 05, 2000

NEW YORK -- One bishop says Cardinal John O'Connor's successor, the man who will lead New York's 2.4 million Catholics, has already been chosen -- but he won't say who it is.

Another experienced observer says whoever would want the nod from among the dozen or so possible candidates "should have his head examined."

"You're in the public limelight all the time," said Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America. "Everyone is always telling you how to do the job. You work grueling hours, sometimes 70 hours a week. There's an incredible number of constituents to please, to say nothing of the media."

O'Connor died Wednesday at 80 of brain cancer after 15 years as cardinal, regarded the nation's most influential Catholic post.

In the arcane process of choosing a successor, a Connecticut bishop whose flock is less than a sixth of the Catholic population in the New York archdiocese has emerged as a likely choice.

Bishop Edward Michael Egan, 68, of Bridgeport, Conn., was a church official in New York and spent enough years at the Vatican to be known to Pope John Paul II, who will ultimately choose O'Connor's successor.

Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, N.J. -- who had been considered a candidate and who just returned from Rome -- said the decision on a successor already has been made. He wasn't naming names -- although he said it's not him.

"We know who the final candidate will be. ... We'll all be delighted with the choice," McCarrick said as he arrived in Newark after a three-day Rome visit during which he spoke with the pope.

McCarrick had high praise for Egan, calling him a strong administrator who had done good things in Bridgeport, where he has been bishop since 1988.

Egan's name has also been mentioned as a likely successor by priests at Masses around the city. Bishop Patrick Ahern told parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Manhattan yesterday that he was certain Egan would be named to replace O'Connor.

"It's the constant rumor and I have no difficulty in accepting it because it's a very appropriate appointment," said Ahern, a former aide to O'Connor. "He's a strong man, a smart man. He's very able. He's from the Chicago area, so he's already a big-city fellow."

Spokesmen for the New York archdiocese and the Bridgeport diocese refused to comment on suggestions that Egan had been chosen.

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