NEW YORK, May 9--These are bittersweet times for friends and family of Bishop Edward Egan.

The 68-year-old prelate of Bridgeport, Conn., has told relatives mourning Cardinal John O'Connor that he'll succeed the beloved New York archbishop.

Official word of the appointment will come from Pope John Paul II--most officials believe the announcement won't come for at least two weeks.

"We're very proud of him," relative Raymond Egan of Hagerstown, Md., told The Post.

Raymond Egan said the bishop had known last week of plans for his appointment but had hoped word wouldn't leak out while O'Connor was so desperately ill. The 80-year-old prelate, one of this country's most influential Catholic leaders, died last Wednesday.

Those who know him say Egan is the right man for the job.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America, the national Catholic weekly, said he had "a number of qualities that the pope would be looking for in an archbishop."

"He's experienced, he's worked in the Vatican, and he's close to John Paul II, having advised him personally" on a revision of the code of Canon Law, Reese said.

"The pope clearly knows the man."

Another good fit is that Egan is a good speaker, and New York is the media capital of the world, Reese noted.

"He clearly supports the positions and teachings of John Paul II," said Reese. "I think he will continue along the same lines as Cardinal O'Connor."

Egan, a church lawyer and scholar and a religious conservative like O'Connor, was ordained in Rome in 1957 and spent 22 years there, becoming a professor of canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome and a judge in the Sacred Roman Rota, a church tribunal that hears marriage cases, among other issues.

Egan speaks several languages, which would help him in multicultural New York, and is known as a good fund-raiser.

The pope asked O'Connor in 1985 to take Egan under his wing in New York, where he served as vicar of education for three years until his appointment to head the diocese of Bridgeport.

Egan has served in that position for the past 12 years.

He also served eight years, from 1956 to 1973, as an aide to Cardinals Albert Meyer and John Cody of Chicago, where Egan was born in 1932.

Like O'Connor, Egan is considered a man with a ready wit and gregarious nature. He's a "people's bishop--very accessible to the people," Stratford, Conn., Catholic Gaye Lynne Eschert told the Hartford Courant.

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