Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Edward Egan responded to the death of New York City Mayor Ed Koch with praise for the Jewish official's collaboration and friendship with Catholics.
“He will have special place in my prayers, and in those of the Catholic community he loved and worked closely with, this weekend,” said Cardinal Dolan, who has been Archbishop of New York since 2009.
Cardinal Dolan said that as a young priest in the 1980s, both Koch and Cardinal John O’Connor symbolized New York to him.
“These two men showed how, despite some deep philosophical disagreements, they could not only work together for the good of the City of New York, but could become close personal friends,” he said in a Feb. 1 statement.
Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York from 2000 to 2009 and an auxiliary bishop of New York City from 1985-1988, said Koch was “a good friend and a wise counselor.”
“Mayor Koch was clearly one of New York's greatest,” he said.
Koch died Friday morning at the age of 88 of congestive heart failure at a New York City hospital. He served three consecutive terms as New York City mayor from 1978 to 1989 and was a U.S. Congressman from 1969 to 1977.
Cardinal Dolan said the mayor had been “a good friend” to him and his predecessors Cardinal Egan, Cardinal O’Connor and Cardinal Terence Cooke.
Koch accompanied Cardinal O'Connor to Rome when the archbishop was made a cardinal and he accompanied the cardinal to Ireland on a pilgrimage for peace to Our Lady of Knock Cathedral.
The mayor told a May 2012 award dinner for the Manhattan Institute that he believed holding a picture of Cardinal O’Connor cured him of spinal stenosis. The mayor said he has given testimony for a Vatican inquiry into the sainthood of Cardinal Cooke.
Cardinal Dolan said Feb. 1 that Catholics similarly appreciated the mayor.
“It is, perhaps, some measure of the respect that Ed Koch – a proud, Jewish man, as he described himself to me – continued to hold among Catholics that a seat was always held for him at Midnight Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.”
The cardinal said that at New York’s annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner held to benefit Catholic hospitals, the mayor received “the largest ovation” and had a more enthusiastic reception than the archbishop and the guest speakers.
Koch won praise from Bill Donohue, the president of the New York City-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
“Ed was not only a man of conviction, he was the number-one person in the Jewish community that Catholics could count on to speak out against anti-Catholicism,” Donohue said Feb. 1. “Indeed, he hated anti-Catholicism as much as he did anti-Semitism, or any other kind of bigotry.”
In an April 6, 2010 column in the Jerusalem Post, Koch criticized some reporting on Catholic sex abuse scandals, saying many in the media are “pounding on the Church and the Pope” with “delight” and “malice.” He said this is due in part to their objections to Catholic teaching on sexual morality, marriage, abortion, celibacy, and the male-only priesthood.
Although Koch said he did not believe Catholic teaching on these issues, he said Catholics have a right to their beliefs. “I believe the Roman Catholic Church is a force for good in the world, not evil,” Koch noted.
Donohue reflected that the mayor was “always cordial courageous and totally honest.”
“There was no one like him,” he added.