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Statement Of The Rev. Robert W. Edgar, NCC General Secretary
On The Death Of New York Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor

May 3, 2000, NEW YORK CITY 

We learned today that His Eminence John Cardinal O’Connor has succumbed to the illness which he so courageously and publicly fought in recent months.  We pray in thanksgiving for his life of dedicated service to the church and now for his peaceful repose beyond the reach of pain, worry and care.   

Cardinal O’Connor and I shared a background of boyhoods in Philadelphia.  He served as Bishop of Scranton at the time I was representing a Pennsylvania district in Congress.  Our vocational paths crossed again in my recent move to New York in the closing days of his tenure as Archbishop.  His long service to the church and to the nation during his nearly thirty year Navy chaplaincy, are a model of faithfulness to be emulated. 

            Cardinal O' Connor was, before all things, a priest.  In his preaching from his beloved St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in teaching or in offering a kindly pastoral word his commitment was to minister to his people.  In contemporary discussions of ethical issues he was firm but not unkind or unfair.  He will be remembered for his ready willingness to engage in discussion of the many issues that confront the city and its people. 

            In the field of ecumenism and interfaith relations His Eminence frequently sought to bring together people of different faith traditions both to enhance their mutual understanding and to find ways in which to collaborate in addressing some unmet need.   His robust personality suited him well to this task and this was seen especially in his joyful hosting of Pope John Paul II’s visit to New York.  Inviting the leaders of myriad faith traditions to process into Central Park, Cardinal O’Connor hosted the leaders personally in his residence for an early morning breakfast.  In all that he did he sought to embody the unity for which our Lord prayed. 

            On behalf of the 35 member churches of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Diocese of  New York and to the National Conference of  Catholic Bishops.  In this season of Easter we especially recall, “ because He lives we too shall live.”  In Christ’s sure promise we trust and commend to God’s keeping this His good and faithful servant. 

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