NEW YORK, May 11--Pope John Paul II has appointed Bishop Edward M. Egan of Bridgeport, Conn., 68, as archbishop of New York, succeeding the late Cardinal John J. O'Connor, who died May 3.

Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment Thursday in Washington. A similar announcement was issued at the Vatican.

Egan reacted with humility to his appointment. "To be able to serve is quite humbling," Egan said at a news conference in New York. "The responsibility has been accepted with great joy." Egan was also quick to praise O'Connor. Egan said his predecessor had suffered greatly and had provided a great example after he underwent brain surgery in August 1999.

He said O'Connor had given "inspiration to countless numbers of people," and expressed gratitude for "his leadership and courage."

Egan tried to inject some humor into the news conference, his first since the Vatican made the announcement earlier Thursday.

"My first reaction was, 'Edward: Get down on your knees and beg the Lord to give you a hand--and don't get up too quickly,'" Egan said.

Archbishop Egan, as he will now be called, is a Chicago-area native and canon lawyer who served 12 years as a judge in the Roman Rota, the church's central appellate court.

He was a New York auxiliary bishop for three years under O'Connor and was archdiocesan vicar of education there before he was named to head the Bridgeport Diocese in November 1988. He was installed the following month.

In Bridgeport, he oversaw a program to regionalize the diocese's elementary schools and helped raise millions of dollars to support education programs and to support religious and homes for retired clergy.

He also was part of the creation by the state's bishops of the Connecticut Federation of Catholic Schools in 1990 to lobby for legislative support and encourage enrollment.

The Catholic population of Bridgeport has grown during his tenure there, from 331,000 in 1988 to 361,000 now, according to the Official Catholic Directory. But at the same time, the number of active diocesan priests has shrunk, from 223 to 183, and the number of parishes has gone from 91 to 88.

Egan will be moving to the second largest U.S. archdiocese, which has a Catholic population of about 2.4 million and has 413 parishes and 585 active diocesan priests.

The New York Archdiocese, which includes Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island, and seven upstate counties, is home to 238 Catholic elementary schools, two diocesan seminaries, two seminaries run by religious orders, and 12 Catholic colleges and universities. Egan also will have the assistance of a half dozen auxiliary bishops in his new see.

Edward Michael Egan was born in Oak Park, Ill., on April 2, 1932. He studied at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., and the Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in December 1957 and, after an early assignment to Holy Name Cathedral parish, served as assistant chancellor and secretary to Cardinal Albert Meyer of Chicago until 1960. Then he was named assistant vice rector of the North American College in Rome. While there, he earned a doctorate in canon law from Gregorian University.

Upon his return to Chicago in 1964, he served as assistant chancellor until 1968 and then as co-chancellor for human relations and ecumenism from 1968 to 1972. He also was secretary to Cardinal John Cody. In 1972, he returned to Rome as a judge in the Roman Rota.

While assigned to the Rota, he also taught juridical practice at its postgraduate school for canon law.

He also served in 1983 as a member of the committee of six canonists who reviewed the final draft of the revised Code of Canon Law with Pope John Paul.

In 1978, while on the Rota, then-Msgr. Egan was one of three U.S. priests among 88 non-cardinals authorized to be inside the conclave that elected Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II.

His assignment at the conclave that October was to check material sent into and out of the conclave area. Other Americans allowed in were Franciscan Father Emmanuel Klump, English-language confessor in St. Peter's Basilica, and then-Father Donald Wuerl, now bishop of Pittsburgh. Bishop Wuerl then was secretary to Cardinal John Wright, who was recovering from surgery.

Until this year, Egan chaired the U.S. bishops' Committee on Science and Human Values, of which he remains a member. He is also a member of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Nomination of Conference Officers.

He is fluent in Latin, French, and Italian and is said to be fond of swimming for exercise.

In 1994, Egan was the homilist at the national Red Mass in Washington, held annually just before the Supreme Court term begins. He used the occasion to criticize what he said had become "politically correct" intolerance toward faith-based views on issues such as abortion and tax-funded support for religious schools.

He told the congregation of judges, lawyers, Cabinet members, and others involved in the legal profession that lawyers should be "first and foremost" in insisting that minority and faith-based views be allowed "free and objective expression."

Egan also received coverage of his 1997 decision to cancel a retreat in his diocese for Catholic parents of gays and lesbians that was to be led by Salvatorian Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, a School Sister of Notre Dame. Last July, after a lengthy investigation, the Vatican permanently barred the pair from continuing their ministry, citing "doctrinally unacceptable" positions regarding homosexuality.

A spokesman for then-Bishop Egan said at the time that the bishop thought it would be inappropriate for the pair to give a retreat in the Bridgeport Diocese in light of the ongoing investigation.

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