Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrated the late former Mayor Ed Koch as a Jewish New Yorker who considered Catholics a "glue" that held the city together.
The head of the city's Roman Catholic archdiocese remembered Koch during a Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The former mayor died of congestive heart failure in February at 88.
Speaking from the pulpit, the cardinal told worshippers that he had been "looking for a good way for the Catholic community of New York to thank God for the gift that he was."
Koch's family and friends were invited to the Mass — one that Koch often attended going back to the 1980s, sitting in a front pew. He and then Cardinal John O'Connor had become good friends, sharing meals and writing a book together titled "His Eminence and Hizzoner."
Koch's longtime law partner, Jim Gill, told The Associated Press that he had sent out invitations to the service he called a "private goodbye" from the former mayor's Catholic friends.
"He loved St. Patrick's Cathedral," Gill said. "He loved the Irish."
On Sunday, Dolan said that while Koch was proud of his Jewish faith, he also was a "great friend" of New York's Catholics. The cardinal said Koch told him, "you know, the Catholic Church is the glue that holds this New York community together, and all its parishes and schools and charities and outreach and community services."
If Koch were at the cathedral during the service, Dolan joked, he'd have looked up at the scaffolding that fills the interior of the edifice — for renovation work — and "he'd say, 'Oh, oh, the cardinal is going to ask us for money.'"
In fact, an insert to Sunday's program did include a special petition for donations.
New York's most prominent Catholic then spoke of a moving moment involving Koch and the cathedral.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Dolan said his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, remembers Koch showing up at St. Patrick's and joining anguished New Yorkers praying there.
Egan "saw Koch sobbing, and he said, 'I've lost so many friends today.'"
Dolan concluded: "We honor him, we miss him, we thank him. ... His was a great example of public service."
However, the cardinal added with a grin, "humility was not one of his virtues."