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Prayer, Tributes For O’Connor

May 8, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Despite 90-degree heat and a formidable line of mourners, Ruth Connell waited patiently to pay her respects to Cardinal John O’Connor.

``He was a man of God who believed in equality for all Christians,″ said Connell, who came to St. Patrick’s Cathedral after services at her own Methodist church in Brooklyn.

Prayers and tributes for the cardinal continued Sunday at the cathedral where his body lay in state on the altar in a red-velvet lined coffin for a third day.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state, was scheduled to celebrate O’Connor’s funeral Mass today. O’Connor was then to be interred in the crypt beneath the cathedral’s altar, where all the previous archbishops of New York are buried.

Dignitaries expected to attend include President Clinton and the first lady; Vice President Al Gore; United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former President George Bush and his son, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.

Thousands from all walks of life have already come to bid farewell to O’Connor since news of his death Wednesday from brain cancer saddened a city, a state and a country. He was 80.

``We celebrate his life today as we mourn his passing,″ said the Rev. John Ferry, who presided over a Mass on Sunday morning, the first of three ceremonies throughout the day.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, who heads the Catholic Archdiocese for the U.S. Military and was friends with O’Connor, led an afternoon Mass, discussing the ``earlier priestly works of Father John O’Connor.″

At a third Mass, close friend Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston thanked those in attendance, mentioning that O’Connor’s family members ``are so consoled by the continual outpouring of the faithful here.″

That Mass was attended by cardinals from Cuba, Washington, D.C., and two from Rome, as well as Bishop Edward Michael Egan, 68 of Bridgeport, Conn., who is said to be a leading contender to replace O’Connor.

Bishop Henry Mansell, 62, of Buffalo, N.Y., and O’Brien, 60, the military archbishop, also have been mentioned as possible successors.

During 16 years at the helm of the nation’s most prominent Roman Catholic pulpit, O’Connor placed himself at the center of some of the country’s most heated debates, angering many with his staunch support of the Catholic church’s positions on abortion and homosexuality even as he charmed many critics with his warm wit.

``He’ll be greatly missed,″ said Leo Gualtieri of the city’s Queens borough. ``We hope the next cardinal will follow in his footsteps.″


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