Culture Politics

From Jackie O to Mario Cuomo, a Jesuit parish is the final stop for boldface Catholics

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral will be held on Tuesday (Jan. 6) at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, a Jesuit-run parish in Manhattan that has often served as the venue for bidding a final farewell to the rich and/or famous. Photo courtesy of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola
Mario Cuomo giving a speech, September 25, 2007. David Berkowitz

Photo courtesy of David Berkowitz, via Wikimedia Commons

Mario Cuomo giving a speech on September 25, 2007. David Berkowitz

NEW YORK (RNS) Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral will be held on Tuesday (Jan. 6) at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, a Jesuit-run parish in Manhattan that has often served as the venue for bidding a final farewell to the rich and/or famous.

Among the well-known Catholics whose funerals were held at St. Ignatius:

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: The widow of John F. Kennedy died in 1994, and while she was a longtime member of the Church of St. Thomas More several blocks away, the Kennedy family chose the larger St. Ignatius for the funeral.

Aaliyah: The singer and performer was killed in a place crash in the Bahamas in 2001 and her funeral procession had an estimated 800 mourners.

Lena Horne: The famous African-American singer and civil rights advocate died in 2010 and was a regular communicant at St. Ignatius (as is her daughter).

Philip Seymour Hoffman: The Oscar-winning actor died in February 2014 after a relapse with heroin. He was raised Catholic but was not a churchgoer. Yet he had a keen interest in the faith and took on many roles and projects related to Catholicism.

Oscar de la Renta: One of the world’s most famous fashion designers, he died in October 2014 at 82 following a long battle with cancer. He was buried after a star-studded funeral Mass at St. Ignatius.

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Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral will be held on Tuesday (Jan. 6) at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, a Jesuit-run parish in Manhattan that has often served as the venue for bidding a final farewell to the rich and/or famous. Photo courtesy of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola

Why choose that particular parish?

The top three reasons are the same responses you get to almost every question about New York: location, location, location. The Upper East Side is home to the wealthy and the well known, many of them Catholic. St. Ignatius is their parish church, and their contributions help maintain the church as a grand sanctuary with a reputation for great music and fine liturgies.

Yet even if the deceased was not a regular at the parish, the church has several other factors in its favor.

For one thing, it is large, and can handle the hundreds of mourners who turn out for big-name funerals (even as many more are often turned away).

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Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral will be held on Tuesday (Jan. 6) at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, a Jesuit-run parish in Manhattan that has often served as the venue for bidding a final farewell to the rich and/or famous. Photo courtesy of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola

In addition, it is run by the Jesuits, the largest male religious order in the world (Pope Francis is a member). The Society of Jesus is renowned for ministering both to the powerful and influential — Jesuits were once criticized as “confessors to kings” — and for their missionary work to those at the margins of society.

The order also has a certain degree of independence from the local diocese, which is convenient if the deceased had a reputation that might have created difficulties for the archbishop, in this case Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

While no one is saying so publicly, some or all of those factors may have worked in favor of the decision to hold Cuomo’s funeral at St. Ignatius.

Certainly the turnout is expected to be large, and the crowd is going to be full of boldface names and big-time pols. Cuomo’s own home parish farther downtown is too small to hold such an event.

Cuomo, as shown in the extensive news coverage following his death on Jan. 1, had a contentious relationship with some Catholic leaders, mainly over his willingness to defend abortion rights (even as he proclaimed his personal opposition) and his bona fides as a Mass-going Catholic.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is currently undergoing extensive renovations and isn’t really in the best shape for a liturgy like this one, even if that’s what Cuomo wanted. But avoiding the cardinal’s parish circumvented any possible complications or controversies, and was a win-win for everyone.

The Jesuits don’t like to talk about their role in burying anyone, much less trumpeting their record as eulogizers of celebrities; several declined to comment about St. Ignatius or arrangements for the Cuomo funeral.

Even the parish’s website was downplaying things: A brief notice said only that the 12:10 pm Mass on Tuesday had been canceled. “We apologize for any inconvenience,” it said, with no explanation.

KRE/AMB END GIBSON

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

14 Comments

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  • A rabid abortionist like Cuomo can only hope that his last stop is a Manhattan church. My gut tells me that it won’t be cold whre he finally stops.

  • Wow. That doesn’t sound very “pro-life.” Or pro-human, pro-compassion, or pro-anything that is supposed to be the reason to be pro-life..

    Not to mention “pro-truth.” Nobody is a “rabid abortionist.” Must hatred always distort?

  • He supported child murder/abortion….Whether he did it RABIDLY OR NOT is not the issue….He supported abortion AND THAT is MORTAL SIN…

  • We can only hope that Mario confessed his support of abortion/murder. Otherwise, he reminds us of Herod who slaughtered the innocent and then washed his hands of their blood. What must it have been like for Mario to live all those years knowing that he could have saved millions of innocent lives.

  • Mario Cuomo was a splendid person. Among his greatest attributes as a leader of New York: He did not confuse his personal preferences with the interests of the people of the state he led.

  • Everyone faces a final judgment before God. None of us will be wearing a sugar coat when we appear before the Judge who is Truth. Cuomo’s oratory sentenced millions of unborn to the death penalty. May God have mercy on the man’s soul.

  • Hell is of course his last stop for the vicious and brutal murder of countless babies in the womb.

    The nice thing about this is Jim is you won’t respond because if you do you will be judging and we know you don’t judge anything!

  • And just like Ted Kennedy’s funeral with Cardinal O’Malley, Cuomo had two cardinals present: Dolan (of course) and Egan. I guess these cardinals (with Wuerl) all missed the day in seminary when they talked about mortal sin and scandal, too.
    All of this goes to prove that it doesn’t matter what you do or even what religion you are, the Church will ignore whatever you do and, according to Fr. Barron, everyone has a 98% chance of going to Heaven….. These guys have really lost it.

  • Jeremiah 17:10 – “I, the LORD , search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” The message: No-one should pretend to judge anyone else as G-d alone does.

  • God gave a us brain too. We can all see sin especially when it’s as plain as day fully in the open. There is no need to judge Coumo. He proclaimed his sin openly.

  • Let me get this straight. So the former govorner presided over and enabled the murder of 1,104,000 babies during his tenure. But your responce/reaction to “Kevin” is he is the hater and not pro-life. If you cannot make a cogent argument why comment at all? I hope you statement was just out of ignorence and not stupidity…….

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