Cardinal Egan, now Archbishop Emeritus, did not participate in the conclave to elect Pope Francis but he came to know the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires at the Synod of Bishops in 2001 and has been “a great admirer of his” since then.
“I have immense admiration for him,” the cardinal told CNY in an interview Tuesday. “He’s as fine a bishop and priest as anyone could hope for.”
At the Synod of Bishops, which took place at the Vatican shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Cardinal Egan served as the rapporteur and gave the opening address.
Because of the peril experienced in New York, the cardinal requested to be excused early, but he later was told that Pope John Paul II personally requested that he stay.
His responsibilities included seeing that the daily talks were translated into numerous languages for distribution by evening’s end. Then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio soon stepped forward and became an indispensable asset working alongside Cardinal Egan and others who were assisting him.
“He began working with us every day. He responded generously, kindly and very competently,” the cardinal recalled. “He was simply wonderful. I became a great admirer of his.”
Cardinal Egan was a cardinal elector at the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. Because he turned 80 last April, he was not eligible to vote in the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
He traveled to Rome and expressed his personal goodbye to Pope Benedict Feb. 28. He said that the Holy Father again expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Egan and New Yorkers for “the wonderful visit,” which took place in April 2008.
In the general congregations with the world’s cardinals that he attended before returning home, Cardinal Egan said he met with Cardinal Bergoglio and asked him about a previous promise to visit New York that the Argentine cardinal had been unable to keep.
“But I will (in the future),” Cardinal Egan quoted the new pope as saying.
If and when he does visit New York, it will now be as a pope.