NEW YORK -- Cardinal John O'Connor's unwavering position on social issues rang out from the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral, a sign his influence would long outlast his eulogy.
''What a great legacy he has left us in his constant reminder that the church must always be unambiguously pro-life,'' Cardinal Bernard Law said during Monday's funeral Mass for the spiritual leader of 2.4 million Catholics.
The remark sparked 75 seconds of applause, then a standing ovation that spread from the back of the cathedral to the front, where President Clinton, Senate seat rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and other politicians were seated.
Many of the political heavyweights favor abortion rights. They were the last to get to their feet and looked a little reluctant, but they eventually stood, some without applauding.
''I see he hasn't left the pulpit,'' a smiling Law said of O'Connor, his close friend, who died Wednesday at age 80 after a battle with cancer.
It wasn't the only ovation to reverberate through the great cathedral. Mourners again broke into applause just as the cardinal's mahogany coffin was disappearing from their view on its way to a crypt beneath the altar.
More than 1,000 clergy took part in the ceremony, said archdiocesan spokesman the Rev. Paul Keenan. Among them was Bishop Edward Egan of Bridgeport, Conn., the perceived front-runner to replace O'Connor.
Besides the Clintons and Giuliani, other notables at the Mass included Vice President Al Gore and his Republican rival for the presidency, Gov. George W. Bush; Bush's father, former President George Bush; Gov. George Pataki; Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Charles Schumer; and the cardinal's two sisters and brother.
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