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Cardinal Egan celebrates his final Easter Mass

Cardinal Edward Egan, who will retire as head ofNew York City's Roman Catholic Archdiocese on Wednesday, toldworshippers at his last Easter Mass that mortal life is fleetingand "we are here for a moment in eternity."

Egan, who was hospitalized for several days with a stomachailment and missed Palm Sunday services, appeared robust though attimes he leaned heavily on his staff.

- Click here to see photos of Cardinal Egan celebrating Easter Mass, and through the years

A standing-room-only crowed of about 2,700 attended Sunday'sMass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

Afterward, the 77-year-old Egan said he felt fine.

"I don't know what in the world happened to me last Saturday,"he said. "I got this virus or something or other in my stomach andthings weren't operating."

Egan was released from St. Vincent's Hospital on Tuesday. Whilehe was there, doctors said he would need to have a pacemakerimplanted.

"I've got plenty of time to do that," Egan said Sunday. "Theheart is still ticking."

Egan is leaving after nine years leading the New YorkArchdiocese's 2.5 million Catholics in New York City and itsnorthern suburbs. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan will beinstalled as his successor on Wednesday.

Egan plans a busy retirement ministering to French-speakingCatholics at the new Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary mission onManhattan's East Side.

"I am going to see if we can create a community that supportsin a very special way what we call the Francophone community," hesaid.

During his homily, Egan spoke of a visit to China 35 years agowhen a group of young people living under Mao's rule asked, "Tellus about God."

Egan said he told them about the resurrection of Christ, andwhen a young man asked if he believed it, he responded that"witnesses to the death and resurrection were not such as wouldinvent such a story."

He said that Americans are fortunate to live in a country wherereligion can be practiced freely, though "the media are ratherunfriendly."

He said the Easter message is more relevant than ever in thecurrent gloomy economic time.

"In my 77 years I have never known a time when the proclaimingwas as needed as it is now," he said.

Egan often has seemed a distant and aloof figure and has notcultivated a warm relationship with New York's media.

Asked about successor, he told reporters, "You're going to likehim very much. He's going to talk to you much more than I do."

- Click here to see photos of Cardinal Egan celebrating Easter Mass, and through the years

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