NEW YORK ( - A large congregation of mourners gathered in St. Patrick's Cathedral Monday afternoon for a Mass of Christian Burial for Cardinal John O'Connor of New York in a ceremony planned by the cardinal in the months before his death last Wednesday.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano presided at the Mass with Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston giving the homily and Cardinal William Baum, the senior American cardinal at the Vatican, providing a reflection at the end. As Cardinal Law mentioned Cardinal O'Connor's unwavering pro-life commitment and his constant reminder "that the Church must be unambiguously pro-life," the congregation stood and applauded for several minutes. Cardinal Sodano also relayed a message from Pope John Paul II, who remembered the cardinal as "one of the great bishops and cardinals of modern times."

Among the dignitaries present at the Mass were President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and his Tipper Gore, former President George Bush and his son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

About 5,000 people attended the invitation-only Mass, including the sisters of the religious order founded by the cardinal, the Sisters of Life, and thousands of Catholics from New York and
beyond gathered outside the cathedral to pay their last respects. Over the weekend, thousands more endured stifling heat to honor the cardinal, who lay in state before the altar of the cathedral.

Cardinal O'Connor was born in Philadelphia in 1920, was ordained in 1945, and served as a US Navy chaplain for 30 years, rising to the rank of rear admiral and being appointed Archbishop of the US Military Archdiocese. He was named archbishop of New York in 1984 and was elevated to cardinal in 1985. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year and died after a long illness brought on by complications from the cancer.