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Cardinal O'Connor Remembered at Funeral MassAired May 8, 2000 - 1:58 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bishops, archbishops, priests, even presidents among the thousands who descended on St. Patrick's Cathedral today to praise the life of Cardinal John O'Connor.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: During this hour, we'll have live coverage of the funeral of this revered church leader, a man whose influence and inspiration reached far beyond the Catholic faith.
PHILLIPS: It's 2:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 11:00 a.m. out the West. It is Monday, May 8. Welcome, I'm Kyra Phillips at CNN Center in Atlanta.
ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen.
We are going to be taking you now live to St. Patrick's Cathedral for the funeral mass for Cardinal John O'Connor. It is just beginning.
CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO: Mr. President, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters in the Lord, we begin this Eucharistic sacrifice which we offer for our beloved Cardinal John O'Connor, who has left us. It is a sacrifice of praise to almighty God who has given us in the person of the archbishop of New York such a generous and faithful pastor. It is a canticle of gratitude to the Father in heaven for the gift of this great churchman who has done so much, brought forth the Catholic community and for so many men and women of goodwill. His name will be forever etched on the annals of the history of the church. Our hearts are heavy with sorrow at his passing.
But today we want to remember the prayer of the saints. Lord, we do not complain because you have taken him from us, but rather we will thank You for having given him to us. The sacrifice of praise is also our prayer for the cardinal's eternal rest.
The church teaches us that every human being is imperfect and meets the mercy of God. Therefore we reach to entrust to God, our loving Father of mercies, this good and faithful servant, as we ask Him to welcome him into the kingdom of the saints and angels.
As a sign of his profound esteem for the late Cardinal O'Connor and to demonstrate concretely his spiritual union with the church in New York, the Holy Father sends me to represent him personally at this solemn liturgy. I wish to reiterate the expression of his condolences along with my own and the entire archdiocese and the family to his brother, sisters and relatives, and to all those of goodwill who mourn his passing. Together in prayer we beg the Lord to welcome him into paradise.
My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate at the sacred mysteries let us call to mind our sins...
AUDIENCE: I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters. I have sinned of my own fault and shall focus on my merits, for what I have done, for what I've failed to do, and I ask the blessed Mary the virgin, and all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.
SODANO: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us the everlasting life.
SINGERS: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
SODANO: Let us pray almighty and merciful God, eternal shepherd of our people, listen to our prayers and grant that your servant, the Cardinal Archbishop John, to whom you entrusted the care of this church, may enter the joy of his eternal Master. They are to receive the rich reward (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We make this prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ, Your son who lives and reigns with You in the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
SODANO: A reading from the Book of Wisdom.
MOTHER AGNES DONOVAN, SISTERS OF LIFE: "But the souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in view of the foolish to be dead and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace, for if before men indeed they be punished, yet is there hope full of immortality.
"Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to Himself. Those who trust in Him shall understand truth. And the faithful shall abide with Him in love."
Because grace and mercy are with His holy ones and His care is with His elect. The word of the Lord.
AUDIENCE: Thanks be to God.
ALLEN: As we listen to this funeral Mass today, we will be talking at different times with Father Thomas Reese. He is the editor of "America Magazine," the national Catholic weekly magazine published by the Jesuits. He's author of "Inside the Vatican" and is formally of the Woodstock Theological Seminary. He has followed Cardinal O'Connor's career since his days back in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
And Father Reese, thank you for joining us today.
FATHER THOMAS REESE, "AMERICA MAGAZINE": Certainly.
ALLEN: What can you tell us about what we'll be hearing today during this mass for Cardinal O'Connor?
REESE: Well, the mass that we'll be celebrating will be the mass for Christian burial and this is very much like any other mass. So it begins with the liturgy of the Word, which we just saw beginning with the first reading from the Book of Wisdom. That was read by Sister Agnes Donovan, who is the mother superior of the Sisters of Life, which was a community founded by Cardinal O'Connor.
The second reading will be from Colossians and it will be read by Therese Snyder, head of the Catholic Guild for the Blind, who will read from a braille version of the Bible. This particular passage will be talking about the life being spoken in the words of St. Paul, talking about his life and his suffering, and preaching the Gospel.
So what we have here is scripture readings that talk about life and death, about the resurrection, and they speak to us especially of the life of a bishop, since this particular liturgy for Christian burial is, of course, for Cardinal O'Connor.
ALLEN: Briefly, Father Reese, would Cardinal O'Connor in his life have chosen any of the readings in today's Mass?
REESE: My guess is that he did choose these readings. The first reading is one that's very common at funerals, from the Book of Wisdom. The other readings are not so common at funerals but they would be common at funerals for bishops or priests.
The Gospel reading will be from Mark's gospel, talking about the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. So it's quite appropriate for this particular service.
ALLEN: Thank you, Father Reese, we will talk with you again.
We will listen again to the Mass.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: ... has grown within me, in God I will praise him still, my savior and my God. My soul is thirsting for the Lord. When shall I see him face-to-face?
THERESE SNYDER, CATHOLIC GUILD FOR THE BLIND: "A reading from the Letters of Paul to the Colossians: Even now I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh, I fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of his body, the church. I became a minister of this church through the commission God gave me to preach among you his word in its fullness. That mystery, hidden from ages and generations past, but now revealed to his holy ones. God has willed to make known to them the glory beyond price which this mystery brings to the gentiles, the mystery of Christ in you, your hope of glory. This is the Christ we proclaim while we admonish all men and teach them in the full measure of wisdom, hoping to make every man complete in Christ." The word of the Lord.
AUDIENCE: Praise be to God.
REESE: Now the ministers are approaching Cardinal Sodano, who will put some incense into the thorofer (ph) so that the book of the Gospel can be incensed to show the reverence that we have for the word of God. The Gospel will be read by a deacon and he will be proclaiming the Gospel of Mark, which tells us about the institution of the Eucharist, the -- at the Last Supper.
The rite -- the mass of Christian burial is both a time of celebrating human grief, but also of Christian hope. As you can hear now in the background, we are singing the Allelujah. We are rejoicing because Christ has died, Christ is risen and he calls us to himself at the time of death. So it's both a time of sadness for ourselves for having lost a good friend, but a time of joy that Cardinal O'Connor is now with the Lord.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): The right hand of God raised me up. The hand of the Lord has triumphed. I shall never die, I shall live telling God's deeds. Allelujah, Allelujah, Allelujah, Allelujah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lord be with you.
AUDIENCE: And also with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark.
AUDIENCE: Glory to the Lord.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "On the first day of the feast of unleavened bread when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover? He sent two of his disciples and said to them, go into the city and a man will meet you carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, the teacher says, where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples. Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.
"The disciples then went off, entered the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, take it. This is my body. Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them and they all drank from it. He said to them, this is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you. I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
"Then after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
The Gospel of the Lord.
AUDIENCE: Praise be the Lord Jesus Christ.
REESE: Now that the deacon has completed the reading of the Gospel, the homily will be preached by Cardinal Law -- Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston was a very good friend of Cardinal O'Connor. In fact, he was with him when he died. He was there with Cardinal Baum praying with Cardinal O'Connor at the time that he died. Cardinal Law became a cardinal at the same time that Cardinal O'Connor did. They've been very good friends and worked closely together here in the United States.
And now we will have the homily from Cardinal Law, which will talk about the scripture readings and talk about how the gift of life, the gift of faith is a gift from God, and how Cardinal O'Connor was a gift also to us all.
CARDINAL BERNARD LAW, BOSTON ARCHDIOCESE: Your eminence, Cardinal Sodano, your presence as our principal celebrant is a deeply appreciated sign of our holy father's pastoral solicitude for this great Archdiocese of New York. And it is a sign, also, of the holy father's and your friendship and esteem for Cardinal O'Connor. Thank you so very much for you presence.
Cardinal O'Connor's family has asked me, your eminence, to acknowledge their special, heartfelt gratitude as well for the pastoral solicitude for which Archbishop Gabriel Montalbo (ph) manifested toward Cardinal O'Connor, particularly during his illness. The bishops of the United States join me in thanking this splendid representative of the holy father in this country.
My intent and your expectation is not that I deliver a eulogy. Cardinal O'Connor's often repeated request was that we gather at this time to pray for him. That we do, in the context of the Eucharistic sacrifice which is the source and the summit of the church's life, and was so clearly the source and summit of the life of the brother, the uncle, the friend, the priest, the bishop whom we bury this day.
We turn to the scripture passages just read, and we look to the book of Cardinal O'Connor's life for consolation in our sadness and for inspiration in our lives.
Last Wednesday evening, when it became evident that death would come very soon, his family, his closest collaborators and friends began the church's prayers for the dying. In the midst of those prayers, there was a moment of profound grief as each of us realized with a sudden clarity what was happening. Just as suddenly, we realized that our tears were not for him, but for ourselves. Our hearts were consoled by that mystery hidden from ages and generations past, but now revealed to his holy ones that mystery, which St. Paul explained to the Colossians as the mystery of Christ in you, your hope of glory.
The inspired insight of the author of wisdom spoke of the hope full of immortality in the souls of the just. He consoles us as we ponder his words in the light of their fulfillment in the risen Christ: The souls of the just are in the hand of God. They are in peace. Jesus -- who suffered, died and rose from the dead -- is our peace. Our hope, as was the hope of Cardinal O'Connor, is to drink of the fruit of the vine again in the reign of God.
The wondrous Passover meal, which Jesus shared with the apostles the night before He died, fulfills the deepest longing of every human heart for freedom. "This is my body," He said over the bread, and over the wine, He said, "This is my blood, the blood of the covenant to be poured out on behalf of many." He instructed us to do this in memory of him, and so we do in this and in every mass.
The meal is forever linked now to the sacrifice in which Christ offered himself for us, taking upon himself the burden of our sins and our death so that we might have forgiveness and everlasting life.
To have known John Cardinal O'Connor is to have known that what we do at this altar was at the heart of his life each day. Just a few weeks ago in a visit to his home, we con-celebrated mass. It was so clearly hear for him the highlight of that day, and for me will remain a most precious memory.
The course of his illness had made it impossible for him to read. Already his ability to carry on a sustained conversation was impaired. With strength and conviction, he was nonetheless able to recite from memory the Eucharistic prayer. So much was the mass a part of his life that when some things began to fade, the Eucharist did not.
He was a man of profound and uncomplicated faith in a good and gracious God who has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus. He believed in the one holy Catholic Church. He was unswerving in his loyalty to the Holy Father as successor to St. Peter.
The words of St. Paul found resonance in his life when Paul writes, "I became a minister of this church through the commission God gave me to preach among you his word in all its fullness." Certainly, he did not shy away from the task of preaching.
He made this pulpit unique in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. God gifted him with a keen and subtle intellect, an uncommon rhetorical skill, a knack for the dramatic gesture, a sharp wit, and an outrageous sense of humor, all of which he used in the service of preaching.
No one proclaimed what Pope John Paul II has called the gospel of life with greater effectiveness than Cardinal O'Connor. It was in proclaiming that gospel of life that he became a national and international public figure. Inevitably, there is an effort to categorize public figures as conservative or liberal. Cardinal O'Connor, like the church herself, defies this type of categorization.
He was eloquent and unremitting in his defense of the life of the unborn as well as his support of the value of human life to the moment of natural death. Perhaps his most lasting testament in support of life will be the work of the Sisters of Life, a religious community he founded and loved so dearly. As he was dying last Wednesday, as a result of a disease with terrible consequences, he bore witness one last time to the moral evil of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. He denounced capital punishment. He championed the rights of workers. He worked for a just peace in the Middle East and in Northern Ireland. Were he in this pulpit today he would applaud the hope for peace in the IRA's announcement on decommissioning.
He preached most powerfully by his example: the necessity of seeing in every human being -- from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, and every moment in between, particularly in the poor, in the sick, in the forgotten -- the image of a God to be loved and to be served.
What a great legacy he has left us in his constant reminder that the church must always be unambiguously pro-life.
I see he hasn't left the pulpit.
A former Navy chaplain, Bishop John McNamara (ph), recalled to me his first meeting with Cardinal O'Connor on Okinawa. Let me quote from his reminiscence. "Father O'Connor, the division chaplain of the Marines came up from Vietnam to interview the new clergy. I remember his first words to me," recalls Bishop McNamara. "I'm John O'Connor, what can I do for you? I often thought of this meeting because of those words. What can I do for you?"
ALLEN: Well, we certainly hope to get our signal back in just a moment of this funeral mass for Cardinal O'Connor. As we wait to reestablish that, you just heard wild applause during the mention that he preached that the church must be unambiguously pro-life.
We'll return now to the mass.
LAW: ... no problem too complex for his genuine compassion and desire to help. To understand this in him is to understand that he was to the core of his being a priest. He ministered in the person of Christ. His life was configured to that of Christ as priest and as victim. Again, the words of St. Paul to the Colossians found expression in the life of Cardinal O'Connor. Paul writes, "Even now I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you.
LAW: ... my own flesh I will fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the church." John O'Connor lived these words. He entered into the lives of countless thousands by identifying with their sufferings in union with Christ. It was thus that he viewed his final illness. He saw himself in solidarity with other cancer patients, and he offered up the sufferings of his illness with the sufferings of Christ. In all of this, he knew an incredible peace.
What a grace it was for his sister, Mary Ward, and other members of the cardinal's family, for Monsignor Gregory Mostacciolo (ph), who could not have been a more loyal friend and attentive son in the Lord to the cardinal, for Eileen White, his special counsel, for his colleagues and friends to be gathered around his bedside when he breathed his last at 8:05 in the evening of last Wednesday, May 3, 2000. We prayed then, and we pray now. Saints of God, come to his aid. Come to meet him, angels of the lord. Receive his soul and present him to God, the most high.
REESE: Cardinal Law has now finished the homily. He began by saying that this -- that he would not be giving a eulogy, but he would be talking and -- about the Scripture readings and how Cardinal O'Connor epitomized some of these readings that we had this afternoon. The striking moment, of course, during the homily was when he spoke about the cardinal's commitment to the gospel of life and said that the church must be unambiguously pro-life from the moment of conception to natural death, and at that point, there was a standing ovation by everyone in the church.
Now we will continue with the liturgy with the prayers of the faithful, in which we will pray for Cardinal O'Connor, for the church, for the world, for all people who are in need.
SODANO: ... love for us is without limit. Let us place our petition before him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For our holy father, Pope John Paul, and for all in the church that Cardinal O'Connor loved so well and served so faithfully let us pray to the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Lord, hear our prayer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That the initiatives of Cardinal O'Connor on behalf of the disabled, the unborn, the poor and the sick and his efforts for peace, racial harmony, justice, education, ecumenism, interfaith relations, and the spread of the gospel will bear abundant fruit, let us pray to the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Lord, hear our prayer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For my family, and the friends of John Cardinal O'Connor, for the people of the Archdiocese of New York and for all whom the cardinal served, that they may be consoled in their grief by the Lord, who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, let us pray to the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Lord, hear our prayer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For John Cardinal O'Connor, our bishop, brother, and friend, that he may rest from his labors in the peace and joy of his Lord, and for all the departed, especially his classmates, and the members of the O'Connor, Gumpel (ph), Ward and Hamilton families, let us pray to the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Lord, hear our prayer.
SODANO: Loving father, you are giving us Christ our hope of glory and promise of eternal life. Keep us faithful to you in sorrow and in joy, and grant that all of us may be reunited into your unending joy of heaven, we ask you this through Christ, our Lord.
REESE: That concludes the liturgy of the word, the first part of this rite. Now we are entering into the liturgy of the Eucharist, beginning with the presentation of gifts, where the gifts of bread and wine will be brought up from the community that will be used during the Eucharist, that will be celebrated today.
The principal celebrant of this Eucharist is Cardinal Sodano, the one who is doing the prayers. And people might remember him as the one who also was sent by the pope to India to celebrate the funeral Mass of Mother Teresa. Cardinal Sodano is the secretary of state in the Vatican. He's really the No. 2 man, directly under the pope, in charge of the Vatican operations.
So now we are having the presentation of gifts. The gifts of bread and wine are being brought up. You see there, again, the casket that Cardinal O'Connor is in with the white cloth over it, the pall that represents the white baptismal garment that each person receive when they are baptized. Also you'll notice on the casket, when we see it again, there is a book of the Bible, representing how we are all called during our lives to live according to the word of God.
And then the second thing that's on top of the casket is a crucifix, which is a crucifix that Cardinal O'Connor used when he prayed in his room. So...
ALLEN: Father Reese...
REESE: Go ahead.
ALLEN: I just wanted to ask you a question because you knew him for a while. You interviewed him when he first came to New York. And I'm wondering what you thought about him the first time that you met him?
REESE: Well, he was an amazing person. He was one of these people that when you meet them and interview them, what you see is what you get. I think that's what I liked about him the most. He was very honest. He was straightforward. He -- you see there the wine being brought up in the pitcher for -- that will be used during the Eucharist.
But Cardinal O'Connor, I think, was very well loved in New York because he spoke out on many things. A lot of people didn't agree with him all the time, but they respected him as a man of conviction, a man of principle, a man who was willing to take on anybody, whether it was the mayor, the president, anybody when he felt that the poor or the unborn or the handicapped or the homeless needed protection. ALLEN: Did you get a sense when you first talked with him that this would be a man that people would grow to really, really admire, so many people from different faiths?
REESE: Well, I knew he was going to be a man that would certainly grab people's attention, because he was a strong personality, very charismatic. It was uncertain how people would react to him. I think that people grew to love him and to know him as time went on.
Now we see Cardinal Sodano with the bread that's being presented. You see all the chalices and cups on the altar there that will contain the wine that will be consecrated during the Eucharist today.
PHILLIPS: Father Reese, this is Kyra Phillips. I'm sitting next to Natalie this afternoon. I have a question for you. When we were talking about the impact of Cardinal O'Connor, two things were mentioned that sort of caught my attention, the fact that one of his goals was to find peace in Northern Ireland. Also, he had strong criticism of those people who said that the Holocaust had never happened. Now the pope has recently come out with an apology that sort of touched on this. Also, in regard to Northern Ireland, we're seeing peace finally taking place, a peace process that may be working. Do you think that the cardinal was influential in these two big movements that have happened lately?
REESE: Yes, I think so. I think, as Cardinal Law said, Cardinal O'Connor would be very pleased with the recent developments in Ireland, where the IRA has agreed to open their arms locations to inspection and to ensure that they're not being used. He would be very pleased by that.
He was very much opposed to American Irish Catholics sending money over to the IRA to buy weapons. And in one time during the St. Patrick's Day parade, there was some controversy over that.
And clearly in terms of Jewish-Catholic relations, Cardinal O'Connor was a key player. He pushed very strongly for improving relations between Catholics and Jews. He supported the Vatican establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, which finally did occur. He became very well-loved, very well-liked by the Jewish community in New York. They referred to him as "our archbishop," "our cardinal." It was really quite extraordinary.
Some of the Jewish rabbis Sunday evening participated in a service in the cathedral for him, and the head of the Board of Rabbis in New York referred to him as "the good shepherd" and "our good shepherd" also. So he was a very key player in both Northern Ireland and in the Middle East, and in improving relations between Catholics and Jews.
ALLEN: Thank you, Father Reese, we'll continue to listen in now.
SODANO: Mercy for God, may the sacrifice which the Cardinal Archbishop John, your servant, offered during his life for the salvation of the faithful help him now to find pardon and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
SODANO: The Lord be with you.
CONGREGATION: And also with you.
SODANO: Lift up your hearts.
CONGREGATION: We lift them up to the Lord.
SODANO: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
CONGREGATION: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
SODANO: Father, all powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ, our Lord. He chose to die that he might free all then from dying, he gave his life that we might live to you alone forever. In our joy, we sing to your glory, with all the choirs of angels.
SINGERS: Holy, holy, holy, God of power and might. Heaven and Earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest.
SODANO: Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness comes from you through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age, you gather a people to yourself so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name. And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your spirit that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the night he was betrayed, he took bread and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said, take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body, which will be given up for you.
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples and said, take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
CHORUS (singing): Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again
SODANO: Father, call into mind today Your son (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for our salvation, His glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet Him when He comes again. We offer you in thanksgiving this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sacrifice. Look with favor on Your church's offering and see the victim (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reconciled (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Grant that we, who are now with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) body and blood may be filled with the Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May he make us an everlasting gift to You and share in the inheritance of your saints, with Mary, the virgin mother of God, with the apostles, the martyrs, Saint Patrick, St. John Fisher, and all your saints on whose constant intersession we rely for help.
LAW: Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world. Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim church on Earth, your servant, Pope John Paul, the apostolic administrator Robert, our principal celebrant Angelo, and all the bishops with the clergy and the entire people Your son has gained for You.
Father, hear the prayers of the family you have gathered here before you. In mercy and love, unite all Your children wherever they may be.
Remember John. In baptism he died with Christ. May he also share His resurrection when Christ will raise our mortal bodies and make them like His own in glory. Welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters and all who have left this world in your friendship. There we hope to share in Your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day, we shall see You, our god, as You are. We shall become like You and praise You forever through Christ our Lord from whom all good things come.
SODANO (singing): Through him and within him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, almighty Father, forever and ever.
CHORUS (singing): Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.
SODANO: Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words that our savior gave us.
AUDIENCE: Our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
SODANO: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In Your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior Jesus Christ.
AUDIENCE: For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
SODANO: Lord, Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: "I leave you peace. My peace I give you." Look not on our sins, but on the faith of Your church, and grant us the peace and unity of Your kingdom where You live forever and ever.
SODANO: The peace of the Lord be with You always.
AUDIENCE: And also with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us offer each other a sign of peace.
REESE: At this point in the Eucharist there is an exchange of peace, where the people and the priests and the congregation exchange Christ's wish of peace, that the peace of the risen Lord.
And now we move to the breaking of the bread and the singing of "The Lamb of God" in preparation for the communion service.
SODANO: This is the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper.
SODANO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) body of Christ bring me to everlasting life.
ALLEN: Father Reese, we continue to talk with you in New York. Thomas Reese, he is editor of "America" magazine, the "National Catholic Weekly" magazine, he is helping us today to know the proceedings, what is happening, and also reflecting on the life of Cardinal O'Connor.
We also saw at the beginning of this mass a funeral procession of 800, including priests, 120 bishops, 15 cardinals.
I'm wondering, Father Reese, how exceptional is this funeral mass compared to others that you have seen?
REESE: Well, this is certainly one of the biggest turnouts I've seen in the United States in recent years. Cardinal O'Connor was certainly a very well-known, highly recognized and respected church leader. So I think it's -- all of these people came out to pray for him, to honor him and to celebrate his life at this time.
And it's remarkable, too, the ecumenical representation here. I think you've seen in some of the shots from the camera there are people from the Greek Orthodox Church, you can see right there behind Cardinal Law as he's giving out communion, representatives from the Orthodox Church, there are other ecumenical representatives to celebrate and give honor to this man who headed the Archdiocese of New York.
ALLEN: Right, because you have pointed out and so many others that he is so noted that he reached out to so many different faiths. We want to mention that across the street from this cathedral hundreds of people are out in the heat to listen to this service over loudspeakers.
And I want to read what U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy said about O'Connor, she said after her husband was killed in a Long Island railroad shooting that she received a letter from the cardinal telling her the tragedy would take her on a different path and she went on to run for Congress and lobby for more stringent gun controls, and she commented that's what made him a great man. As she said, he really was a shepherd to all.
REESE: Yes, I think most of us saw the public face of Cardinal O'Connor when he spoke out, when he preached, but there was a real personal side of him as he visited people in hospitals, as he wrote to people who were in trouble or in pain.
He had a personal correspondence with many, many people that is just amazing, people who wrote him and telling him of some tragedy in their life and he would write back and say that he would pray for them. One person contacted him, asked him to get the pope to pray for something and he did. He contacted the pope, and asked him to pray for that person.
So he really had that pastoral personal compassion for people who were suffering, for the handicapped. In fact, yesterday there was a special mass for handicapped people who wanted to come and to honor Cardinal O'Connor, and as we've seen in some of the visuals today they are present here also at this liturgy.
PHILLIPS: Yes, Father Reese, he didn't just start these programs for AIDS patients, and school children, the disabled, but he really did personally minister in these programs. I was reading that specifically with the AIDS patients that he would bathe them and spend hours praying with them.
REESE: That's correct. I mean, when this all began to happen, he really wanted to get a personal experience of it and so he went down to an AIDS hospice and, you know, bathed AIDS patients, cleaned bed pans, talked to them, prayed with them, and really showed a real compassion and love and concern for them as people. This is not the image people have of Cardinal O'Connor often. He was often portrayed as this hard-charging admiral and yet he was a very personable kind priest also.
ALLEN: What a beautiful sound and people outside this cathedral listening as well.
Let's talk with Deborah Feyerick about the reaction from the people on the streets of New York -- Deborah.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, there are about 200 people outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral, you can see them just behind me, they sort of been penned in. They've been listening to the funeral mass, a very muffled loudspeaker. They say that they came here because Cardinal O'Connor touched them in so many different ways. One man said he was a very religious man that said he was even more than just a religious figure. Another person said he met Cardinal O'Connor several months ago and that he was an inspiration to him.
Now, as you heard in the homily given by Cardinal Bernard Law, Cardinal O'Connor was praised as one who made this pulpit here in New York unique in the United States. He was described as both eloquent and unremitting in his defense of the unborn and his support of human life.
And the legacy Cardinal Law said was that O'Connor felt the church must be unambiguously pro-life, and at that moment there was a very long and very loud standing ovation and more than halfway into the ovation President Clinton, Vice President Gore and also the first lady stood at that point. Now, Cardinal Law praised O'Connor, saying that at the core of his being he was a priest and that to know Cardinal O'Connor was to know that this church was his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAW: ... unambiguously pro-life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Definitely a moving moment there in the middle of the Mass for Cardinal O'Connor.
We're going to bring Father Thomas Reese, editor of the national Catholic weekly, "America" magazine. He's been participating in this coverage with us. And what do you make of this, Father Reese?
REESE: Well, I think Cardinal Law and the other bishops wanted to make very clear that although Cardinal O'Connor was the most visible spokesperson for the bishops on pro-life matters, that certainly this voice was not going to die with him, and that they wanted to make very clear that the bishops were going to continue to support pro-life activities and to be unambiguously supportive of life from conception until its natural -- until natural death.
ALLEN: We also saw that the president, first lady, vice president and Tipper Gore are not participating in the applause, having different views on the subject, but standing with the rest, as they stood in honor of the cardinal.
We talked about, Father, how he has brought different faiths together. He certainly brought an assortment of politicians together today. You have Rudy Giuliani sitting behind Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush near Al Gore, as well. Can you talk to us about his time in the service? Because someone had said last week when we learned of his death that they felt his time as a chaplain in the Navy, he served 27 years, probably helped forge his work to bring so many different people together. REESE: I think that's true. I think as a chaplain he had to work with chaplains from other denominations, Jewish rabbis, Protestants, Orthodox. And in the Army you have to be -- excuse me, in the Navy you have to be ecumenical, and he was. And I think they grew to like him and respect him. Especially when he was admiral, he worked very hard for the other chaplains. So it was an opportunity where he got to know people of different faiths and reached out passively to them.
Of course, it was also the place where he ministered as a priest. It was where he first began working with handicapped children, with families with handicapped children. This was not something he simply began as a cardinal, but it was something that was close to his heart early in his priesthood.
ALLEN: That standing ovation we just saw that happened during this Mass was to support his adherence to church doctrine. He, however, alienated thousands of Catholics, as well, including gays, who protested outside this cathedral. How did he handle the dissension, the loud voice of protests?
REESE: Well, I think what he tried to do was to express the church's teaching as he saw it, and but at the same time to show that this was not an attack on people or on persons. Cardinal O'Connor was never ad hominem. He would express the church's teaching, but he would reach out, I think, compassionately to people who were suffering and to others.
I mean, you can think, for example, how he and the mayor were so close to one another and even wrote a book together, and yet they disagreed about abortion, Mayor Koch and he. And yet they were yet very good friends. So I think he was someone who tried to reach out to people.
Some people couldn't see that complexity to his character and felt that, well, if he's against abortion, if he's against homosexual activity, he must hate women and he must hate gays. Well, that was never the case. He was not a homophobe. And I think he really felt badly that his compassionate message to these people never got through very well.
We're now reaching the conclusion of the Eucharist, with Cardinal Sodano saying the final prayer.
SODANO: By this sacrifice, may you share with Christ the joy of eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
REESE: At this point, Cardinal Baum, who was also a very close friend of Cardinal O'Connor, will say some final words. There you see on the screen Cardinal Sodano on the left and Cardinal Law on the right, and the other prelate that was sitting next to -- here it is, Cardinal Baum, who will speak about Cardinal O'Connor. Cardinal Baum is the most senior.... CARDINAL BAUM: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
So we read in the prologue of the Gospel of John. During this jubilee year 2000, we are reflecting upon the mystery of the incarnation, the gaze of the church is still fixed upon this great mystery, why at this time, at this moment, is it introduced in this funeral?
Perhaps you're wondering, first of all, why another discourse. I can well imagine that some of you are asking that question, having heard Cardinal Sodano greet us in the name of the Holy Father and Father -- Archbishop -- Cardinal Law's beautiful homily. Why do I speak at this moment? Precisely because Cardinal O'Connor requested it, and he gave me certain instructions, even as he gave instructions to Cardinal Law.
I wish to suggest that it is in contemplating the mystery of the incarnation that we come to know, to understand, have a key into understanding the person of John Cardinal O'Connor. He was a gifted man, so many talents, so creative. We've heard that over and over again. And it is so true. But above all, he was a servant of the truth. First of all, the truth about Jesus Christ, God the son who assumed a human nature, lived, suffered, died on the cross and rose for our salvation. That was the heart of the matter for John O'Connor. His whole life was dedicated to proclamation of that truth.
As a witness to that truth and also as the ideal that he followed in living his own life, it was the love of Christ that impelled him. He was driven, compelled by the love of Christ to spend himself for others. It explains his giving of himself, his self-emptying. He served, of course, the rich, the poor, the powerful, the powerless, the sick, the holy ones in our midst, and he also served the sinners. He was a great minister of the sacrament of penance, of reconciliation.
He was also a man who gave himself wholeheartedly to the cause of Christian unity. He worked all of his years promoting that reconciliation along those who call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. To illustrate this point, as head of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, he was able in the Holy Land in Israel to promote this understanding and mutual respect along the Christians of that part of the world, at the same time strengthening bonds of respect and friendship with the Jewish people.
I cannot refrain at this moment from mentioning the presence in our midst of our beloved friend, Archbishop Yacavtz (ph), one of the great leaders and pioneers in the cause for Christian unity in the United States and in the world. We owe so much to him, and it does give Cardinal O'Connor -- it does give Cardinal O'Connor great joy, I'm sure, to see him in our midst.
The cardinal also worked so much for good relations between Christians and Jews. That theme has been well-illustrated over and over again during these days. I think we can say that never have our relations been better, more highlighted, more solid than they are now because of what Cardinal John O'Connor brought. He was a man who took...
The cardinal loved everyone. He emptied himself. His heart was one of universal love. Why? Because he patterned himself upon his Savior, Christ Jesus.
He told me some years ago when I asked him, who is your patron saint? I asked, was it John the Apostle? John the Baptist? Perhaps John Chrysostom? Because Cardinal O'Connor was very much like John Chrysostom in his preaching in confronting the age in which he lived. But he told me, no, it was John Fisher. Fisher was a 16th century bishop and finally a cardinal. He gave his life in defense of the truth, in obedience to his conscious. He disobeyed his earthly king, whom he loved and served loyally. He had been the king's tutor. But he had to obey a higher authority, the authority of Christ the King, his Savior. For that he suffered death. He was beheaded.
When cardinals are created, the Holy Father tells us that the color red, which we take, is meant to be a reminder that we must be ready to shed our blood in defense of the faith in witness to Christ Jesus. The red is not just an honor, a reminder of that obligation to die for Christ.
Cardinal O'Connor wasn't decapitated. He didn't die because of his faith. But he did proclaim it in season and out of season with strength and with courage and for that he did suffer. He was not afraid to speak in ways that were politically incorrect, to draw criticism from some. But he always did it with love, with comprehension. And while he's thought of as a very complex man with a subtle intellect, multi-faceted, he is finally a man very simple, consistent, a man who truly can be understood among all the great and good men of our times.
As Cardinal Law so well illustrated, at the heart of his existence was the mystery of the Eucharist, the sacrament, sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ. It is in that that he found his daily nourishment, the strength, the sustenance that he required to carry out his ministry. It was at the heart of all that he did. Because in the Mass, everything is contained, the complete profession of faith, all that we believe and that we hope for and we have the gift of the body and blood of Christ.
That body and that blood, that blood which was shed for us on Calvary, he lived in the light of that, and that is what sustained him. And it is another way of understanding what made John O'Connor the man that he was.
He gave me an admonition, the same admonition he gave to Cardinal Law. The funeral Mass is not a memorial of John O'Connor, although one would think so because we speak of him so much and rightfully so. The Mass is truly a great act of admiration, of thanksgiving, of supplication, of reparation. It is the act of Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest. And John O'Connor was always conscious that he was standing in the person of Christ at the altar when he celebrated holy Mass. And he often preached and wrote about the effects of the Eucharist.
In receiving the body and blood of Christ, we are transformed more and more as we take part in the saving sacrament, more and more as we are purified.
Finally, he admonished me to ask all of you to pray for the repose of his soul. Cardinal Sodano has mentioned this, Cardinal Law has, and so shall I. It's not idle to underline something for the sake of emphasis, The cardinal wanted us to do that. Why do we then also speak so many good and kind words about him? For our sakes, to inspire us by his life and to give some measure of consolation also to his family, how much he loved you.
Mary and Dorothy and Thomas and all of your children, grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, how close he was. He spoke of you often, and one could see it in him.
And how much he loved this other religious family, the Sisters of Life, the community he created to bear witness to the truth that human life is sacred at every moment, from conception to death. Their lives are dedicated to proclaiming that truth and to serving that truth.
We have so much to be grateful for, but I cannot forbear mentioning a few other people who I think should not be unnoticed. Cardinal Law has mentioned Monsignor Mostacciolo, Gregory, who has served the cardinal as his secretary in recent years. No son could be more loving than was Gregory to John O'Connor.
It is true also of his general counsel, Miss Eileen White, of whom Cardinal Law spoke.
And missile Ellen Stafford, who must not be forgotten.
And one last name who stands for many. In the household of the cardinal, there is a lady we esteem highly, one who has worked for the archbishops of New York since 1962, that is for Cardinal Spellman, for Cardinal Cook and all the years of Cardinal O'Connor's ministry here in New York. Those of us who have enjoyed the hospitality of the cardinals know of whom I speak. This dedicated disciple, this woman who has dedicated her life to this service must be acknowledged, Miss Moira Kelly (ph).
May I say also that we priests and bishops and cardinals also need people to help us. I can say from my own experience that Cardinal O'Connor is one to whom we looked for encouragement, for support, especially in times of difficulty. And many other bishops have said that to me, and I believe speaking personally that I can also speak for so many others.
Finally now we come to the end. As the cardinal demanded -- not just requested, demanded -- we must pray for him. And so, through the intercession of the all holy mother of God, the Blessed Mother whom John O'Connor loved so deeply and so tenderly, through the intercession of all the saints, the holy ones who have gone before us, signed with the sign of faith. We pray eternal rest grant unto John O'Connor, let perpetual light shine upon him. May his souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
REESE: That was Cardinal Baum, William Baum, who was a very close friend of Cardinal O'Connor. Cardinal Baum is the most senior of the U.S. cardinals. He's been a cardinal now for 24 years.
He works in the Vatican as one of the pope's chief advisers. Before that he was the archbishop of Washington, D.C.
He had a long career working in ecumenism. So I think he was very sincere in his words about Cardinal O'Connor's work in ecumenism and in his relations with the Jewish community.
Now we are moving to the final commendation of the -- of Cardinal O'Connor's body, the farewell, in which there will be prayers said expressing how we sorrow that he is no longer with us but we have hope in his resurrection because Christ rose from the dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is sadness in parting, but we take comfort in the hope that one day we shall see him again and enjoy his friendship. And though we will leave in sorrow this afternoon, the mercy of God will gather us together again in the joy of His kingdom. Therefore, let us console one another in the faith of Jesus Christ.
REESE: He will now incense the coffin, showing the respect that we have for the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. And first he will sprinkle it with holy water, reminding us of our baptism where we died with Christ so that we might also rise with Him to new life.
The entire funeral rite is a reminder of our baptism because of the church's belief that through our baptism we die with Christ and then go into new life with Christ.
And now he incenses the coffin and the body to bless it and to show our reference for the deceased.
ALLEN: Father Reese, where will the final resting be for the cardinal's coffin?
REESE: The cardinal will actually be buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral. There's a crypt under the main altar, which already has, I think, something like 12 people in it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... commend our brother John, in the sure and the certain hope that together with all who have died in Christ he will rise with Him on the last day. We give You thanks for the blessings which You bestowed upon him in this life. They are signs to us of Your goodness and of our fellowship with the saints in Christ.
Merciful Lord, turn toward us and listen to our prayers, open the gates of paradise to your servant, and help us who remain to comfort one another with assurances of faith until we all meet in Christ and with You and with our brother forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
REESE: There you see the book of the scriptures that was on top of the coffin during the celebration being given to his family, along with the crucifix that was on top of the casket. They are now removing the white cowl as they prepare to take the coffin from the church and to take it down to the crypt that's below the main altar. They will go through the sanctuary, I believe, up through the -- and then to a flight of narrow stairs that goes down into the crypt.
There are 12 people buried there already, including a Haitian slave who was freed in 1807 and then devoted the rest of his life to raising money to free other slaves. He is being proposed for sainthood right now. Cardinal O'Connor pushed that case for his canonization, for his becoming a saint in the Catholic Church.
He's the only laymen that is buried in the cathedral. The rest of them are archbishops and cardinals that will be with Cardinal O'Connor in the crypt.
In fact, Cardinal O'Connor asked specifically that he be buried next to this former Haitian slave, who hopefully one day will be declared a saint in the Catholic Church.
You can see now that the bishops are processing out of the church following the cross. We had over 100 bishops here for this ceremony, people from all over the United States. We had cardinals from Mexico, from the Dominican Republic, from Cuba, from Rome, from Ireland, all coming to pray during this service, to pay their respects to Cardinal O'Connor at this final last time.
There we see the incense, which represents our prayers as our prayers ascent into heaven, like the smoke as it goes up. The Catholic Church loves to use very physical things: colors, sounds, and even smells, as with this incense. And here we see a young person, who has been given a prominent place in this ceremony, got a front-row seat in front of all the dignitaries. I think Cardinal O'Connor would be very pleased by that.
We see the pallbearers now, having lifted up the coffin. It's -- that coffin was made from mahogany wood that was brought from Africa for the cardinal's coffin. PHILLIPS: Father Reese, the liturgy has definitely changed quite a bit, I guess, since the ancient times. Now, it's -- I guess, it turns to more of celebrating a resurrection. Is that sort of where this goes forward from here?
REESE: Yes, it's interesting that in actually the earliest time in Christianity funerals and burials were celebrated as a real celebration, because the person was seen to be going to God. It was in the Middle Ages actually when it became much more a time of sorrow and seeing death as part of the terrible aspect of life. And I think what we've done in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council is return to really the earlier tradition of seeing the -- seeing death as a time when we go forth to God with hope and confidence even though in our ritual we have time for sorrow, we have time for the human mourning.
At the same time, what we really are celebrating here is Christian hope, hope in the resurrection, hope in our life together with God. As in the final prayer that the bishop said that we hope that we will see Cardinal O'Connor again when we all gather together in Heaven.
ALLEN: We just saw President Clinton, who said before this service of the cardinal, "I think he set a very large role in the life of the church and even when he was controversial and when he disagreed with me I liked the fact that he was outspoken and he stood up for what he believed in."
REESE: What they are doing right now is they have taken the coffin down through the church, down the center aisle and now they're coming back one of the side aisles. This was to give the people in the church one last opportunity to pay their respects to the cardinal and to see his coffin as it processes through the church. Now they are bringing it back toward the sanctuary, toward the crypt where he will be entombed.
REESE: There we see the coffin being taken back toward the back of the church where they will go down a narrow flight of stairs to the crypt that's below the altar.
ALLEN: So, Father Thomas Reese, we've been talking about this exceptional leader in this country for a couple of hours now. What will be his legacy?
REESE: I think he will be remembered as a really strong public voice for the Catholic Church in the United States. He's tried to be a prophet, a modern-day prophet who takes the Scripture in one hand and the newspaper in the other and tries to show how one goes with the other. He spoke out strongly in defense of the handicapped, the poor, of homeless people. He -- I think this is what we are going to remember about him. I think those who knew him personally will also remember his personal warmth, his compassion. I think he will be remembered as one of the most powerful Catholic cardinals of his generation, a man who really said it as he believed it. He didn't check public opinion polls. He was a man of principle and of conviction, and I think that's what we will remember.
ALLEN: And it came as a surprise to some when he was elevated to his role in New York, correct?
REESE: Absolutely. He was not on the list of people that were being talked about. He came from Scranton, Pennsylvania, originally he was a priest of Philadelphia, but he was bishop of Scranton at the time that he was appointed archbishop of New York. It was kind of a surprise. He had only been in Scranton a very short time, I think it was hardly a year. And he was also 65 years of age, which is a little on the old side to become archbishop of New York.
The person that's been rumored most recently for his successor is Bishop Egan, who also is actually 68 years of age, which is probably the only thing going against him. He worked in Rome as a priest in the Vatican offices. Earlier, he had been an ecumenical officer in Chicago, in Connecticut, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he's bishop right now. He's been a strong supporter of Catholic schools, especially poor schools and getting the richer parishes to help support them and pay for them, so he may be the new archbishop. We don't know really yet, but that's the rumor.
ALLEN: Well, as we mentioned throughout the weekend, tens of thousands of mourner attended masses and the public viewing to say good-bye to O'Connor, and one was quoted as saying, "He will be greatly missed. We hope the next cardinal will follow in his footsteps."
REESE: Certainly whoever becomes the new archbishop of New York is going to have some big shoes to fill. It's going to be a very tough job. Cardinal O'Connor has been so visible, so active that I think whoever comes after him is certainly going to be in the spotlight very quickly.
PHILLIPS: Father, one colleague had mentioned yesterday it's going to need to be Jesus Christ with a Master's degree.
REESE: Yes, actually what I said was Jesus Christ with an MBA.
PHILLIPS: With an MBA.
REESE: Which is what I think the job requires. It's an impossible job. New York is the third largest diocese in the United States after Los Angeles and Chicago, it has just incredible number of ethnic groups, religious groups, political groups, all of these people who the archbishop will have to deal with.
I think especially he's going to have to be a man who can listen to all these groups, to all the various people in the Catholic Church and in the New York community. He's going to have to be someone who is very ecumenical -- that's going to be extremely important -- that can reach out to the various religious groups in New York as Cardinal O'Connor did -- and also especially to continue to move forward on the Jewish-Catholic relationship so that that can continue to improve. Cardinal O'Connor was a real leader in that, as many people have mentioned.
So these are some of the things that the new archbishop is going to have to deal with.
ALLEN: Father Reese, we know that they've now taken the coffin down that narrow stairwell, as you said, as you described to us, to a crypt that holds the bodies of five cardinals and four archbishops and other church leaders, and the Haitian, whose calls for sainthood were supported by Cardinal O'Connor. Also, his -- the members of his family and a few clergy members were there.
What else happens at this time in the crypt?
REESE: Well, at this time the ceremony will be very brief. There'll be a very short prayer as they place the coffin into the crypt so the -- at this point in the service we're really getting toward the very end of the ceremony.
PHILLIPS: What you can tell us about his family? We've seen a number of pictures, visuals of them this morning. What can you tell us about his family?
REESE: Well, he was very close to his family, kept in contact with them quite a bit. He especially, I think, reveled in being the uncle to many, many nieces and nephews who he loved very, very much.
So it was a close family. Some of them were there with him at the end when he died. Those who live in the New York area were there with him.
I think it was something that he enjoyed, because it kept him connected to a real-life human family, and it was something that he treasured very much.
PHILLIPS: He fostered that family-like atmosphere with his colleagues, didn't he?
REESE: I'm sorry.
PHILLIPS: He fostered that family-like atmosphere with his colleagues.
REESE: Yes, absolutely. The priests that worked with him referred to him as a father, as a father figure for them. He mentored a lot of young priests, helped them in their vocations, was a spiritual director to them, guided them, I think tried to model what it meant to be a priest in today's world for them.
Yes, he was -- he was very close to a large -- to the people that worked with him. And this was also with the laymen and women. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... in the peace of Christ. May the Lord now welcome him to the table of God's children in heaven, with faith and hope and eternal life. Let us assist him with our prayers. Let us pray to the Lord also to ourselves. May we who mourn be reunited one day with our brother. Together may we meet Christ Jesus when he who is our life appears in glory.
We read in scripture: Jesus Christ is the first-born of the dead. To him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.
REESE: There you can hear the prayers...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... almighty and ever-living God, remember the mercy with which You graced Your servant John in life. Receive him, we pray, into the mansions of the saints as we make ready our brother's resting place. Look also with favor on those who mourn and comfort them in their loss. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
REESE: That voice is coming from the crypt underneath the main altar as Cardinal O'Connor's coffin is placed in the tomb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... in the sure and the certain hope of the resurrection of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to almighty God our brother John Cardinal O'Connor and we commit his body to his cathedral's crypt.
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The Lord bless him and keep him. The Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious to him. The Lord lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace.
With longing for the coming of God's kingdom, let us together pray as Jesus taught us.
AUDIENCE: Our father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Eminence Cardinal Sodano, may I ask that after we have returned to the sanctuary you privilege us with an apostolic blessing? We're also deeply grateful that Your Eminence, in accordance with the wishes of Cardinal O'Connor, has agreed to ask all of the priests to join in imparting that apostolic blessing.
REESE: So, that concludes the entombment of Cardinal O'Connor under the main altar in the cathedral. Now Cardinal Sodano will be coming back up into the main part of the church to give the pope's apostolic blessing to the entire congregation, which will then conclude this ceremony.
ALLEN: Father Reese, we've talked a lot about that the people in New York thought about this man. What did the pope think of Cardinal O'Connor?
It was reported, although never confirmed, as many have heard by now, that he said, maybe once said he wanted a man like him in this role in New York.
REESE: Yes, I've heard that repeated so many times I think it's true. Certainly, they were very, very close friends. They were much alike in personality and in interests and concerns.
When Archbishop O'Connor first went to Rome after becoming archbishop, the pope greeted him at the door of his library, and he said, "The bishop of Rome greets the archbishop of the world," clearly recognizing the importance of New York as a very, very important diocese in the United States.
Whenever Cardinal O'Connor came to Rome, he was able to get in to see the pope.
There you see the chair, the cathedral chair of Cardinal O'Connor with his coat of arms on it. Actually the name cathedral comes from the chair. It's the bishop's chair, which he teaches from, and that is in every cathedral throughout the world.
But they worked very close, the archbishop and the pope. I think they liked each other, they respected each other. And Cardinal O'Connor would, you know, would tell things to the pope that he wouldn't say publicly. For example, when he thought the pope needed to hear something, he would do that, and the pope could take that. He would listen to it because he trusted Cardinal O'Connor, knew he was very loyal, and was willing to, you know, take advice from him.
You can see there all of the bishops standing in the sanctuary in a semicircle there with the altar in front of them. There are hundreds of priests along the sides also, and then there in the congregation you can see all the people who have come here to pray.
ALLEN: What do you think, Father, will be the challenges for the successor to Cardinal O'Connor within the Catholic Church?
REESE: Well, I think the first thing that he's going to face is that he's got a hard act to follow. I think that anyone who gets this job is going to have to admit that he can't be an imitation of Cardinal O'Connor. He's got to be his own man. He's got to go with his own talents.
He's going to face the challenges that any bishop does, preaching the Gospel, making it relevant to the people of today, getting the message of Christ's love across to young people, to all people in the community, to reach out to our brothers and sisters in the other Christian communities and in the Jewish community, and, you know, and also to preach the social gospel of Christ, the concern for the poor, for the homeless. These are, you know, many of the challenges that he's going to have to face.
And, I hate to say it, but pragmatically, running such a large archdiocese, he's going to have to raise money and pay bills. That's why I said Jesus Christ with an MBA is the kind of person we look for to make archbishop. But sadly, Jesus is not available.
ALLEN: And as far as whether this successor will be right in the thick of things as far as in controversial and heated debates in this country, I guess that will be up to the individual.
REESE: I think so. Cardinal Cook, for example, Cardinal O'Connor's predecessor, was a much lower-key person. He rarely called press conferences. He was not a kind of a media figure. But he was very influential behind-the-scenes, both in New York and in the Catholic Church. So it depends on the talents that the person has. You know, the New York archdiocese is a very bully pulpit that's available id the person has the talent and the willingness to play that kind of very public role on.
But if he doesn't do it, certainly there will be other cardinals in the country, for example Cardinal George in Chicago and Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles, who are very bright, very hard-working, very articulate, who could play this role if the new archbishop of New York doesn't want to.
I think, however, that he will be forced simply by the media and by people to play a more public role than he might even want to.
PHILLIPS: Father Reese, Cardinal Baum had mentioned when he was delivering the closing prayer how the 16th century John Fisher was the cardinal's role model, and he used the words "politically incorrect." I guess the cardinal natural wasn't afraid to be politically incorrect, was he?
REESE: No, he wasn't at all. I mean, he defended the unborn, he defended the homeless, he defended -- there's the cardinal's family coming there. He wasn't afraid to say what he thought and preach the Gospel. And I think this is something the American bishops have done. Now they don't fall easily into the category of liberal-conservative in kind of Democratic-Republican lines, because they're against capital punishment. They want to open the gates for immigrants and welcome immigrants into our country -- not even liberal Democrats want to do that anymore. So that's something that the cardinal is very outspoken about.
Here we see the cardinals coming back into the sanctuary. We saw Cardinal Keeler there a moment ago, the cardinal from Baltimore. And here we see Cardinal Sodano coming, the last in the line, shaking hands with President Clinton.
Cardinal Sodano is carrying, actually, Cardinal O'Connor's crosier. That's the staff there, that's the shepherd's staff. And there's Cardinal Sodano saying hell and greeting the family of Cardinal O'Connor also. And there he's greeting some of the ecumenical dignitaries that have been here for the ceremony.
So now the cardinal will impart the apostolic blessing of Pope John Paul II to the members of the congregation. He's going there to the cathedral chair, which is the traditional place that the bishop taught and blessed from.
SODANO: Blessed in the name of the Lord.
CONGREGATION: For ever and ever.
SODANO: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Who made heaven and Earth.
SODANO: May your almighty God bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and then of the Holy Spirit.
REESE: That was the Latin version of the "Hail, Holy Queen," a song, a prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It's a traditional Latin song that's been sung in the church for centuries.
As you could see, many of the bishops knew it by heart and were singing without even looking at the music sheets.
ALLEN: There you see the president greeting that young man we've been referring to, who had a better seat than the president today at this funeral mass.
Father Reese, you've been with us for more than two hours. We thank you so much for helping guide us through this poignant and thoughtful ceremony. And your final thoughts on this afternoon.
REESE: Well, I think it was the kind of ceremony that Cardinal O'Connor would have liked. It was -- it was a happy occasion. It was an occasion full of hope. It was an occasion that celebrated life and that gave worship to God. I think that's what he would have liked to have seen and to celebrated.
I think at the same time, I think as, you know, as -- he must be up there laughing in heaven, because he did have such a sense of humor. This little boy that grew up in a row house in Philadelphia whose father was a blue-collar worker rose to such an eminence in the church and in the nation that all of these people turned out. I think he would have been kind of laughing at the irony of all of this. And I think he simply wanted to be a good priest. That's what he wanted to be all of his life. And I think the fact that people liked him so much showed that he did do that. But also the fact that so many people came out showed that he -- he also was a very public voice for the church in the United States.
ALLEN: Father, we thank you for those thought. In fact, he once said he hoped his epitaph would simply read "He was a good priest."
PHILLIPS: Well, we're going to go from inside the church, inside of St. Patrick's outside, where Deborah Feyerick has been standing by, covering what's been happening.
Well, we're going to not go to Deborah. We're going to hold on for a minute. She's getting things together. She's been outside monitoring the crowds and the sermon that folks have been listening to outside.
Deborah Feyerick standing by.
Deborah, what are your thoughts and feelings from where you've been as this wraps up?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Well, we can tell you what we're seeing now. A lot of people right now leaving the cathedral over here, several hundred people just to my left. The crowd grew to about 400 to 500 people, and they waited here during what was a very muffled ceremony. Still, they wanted to be here to feel close to the cardinal. They each felt very touched by him in their own respective ways.
One man said that met the cardinal, and the cardinal was very inspirational. All the dignitaries now leaving, and the crowd watching and waiting, the bells of the cathedral ringing. The cathedral now rests in peace.
Reporting live, Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.
PHILLIPS: Thank you, Deborah.
ALLEN: That concludes our coverage of this funeral mass this afternoon for -- for such a man that we've learned a lot about, Cardinal O'Connor.
Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.
PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips. We now join STREET SWEEP in progress.
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