Cardinal William Keeler, Former Bishop of Harrisburg, Dies

Cardinal Keeler's casket is carried into the Baltimore Basilica

Credit Robert Lang Cardinal Keeler's casket is carried into the Baltimore Basilica

Keeler was appointed archbishop in 1989 by Pope John Paul II and became a cardinal in 1994. He passed away Thursday at the age of 86 at his home in Catonsville, just outside Baltimore. Vespers will be conducted at 7 p.m.

Cardinal Keeler's funeral will be held on Tuesday March 28th at the Cathedral of Mary of Our Queen in Baltimore.

"One of the great blessings in my life was coming to know Cardinal Keeler", said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori in a statement.

Visit the Archdiocese of Baltimore's tribute page to Cardinal Keeler here.

In the early part of his retirement, Cardinal Keeler remained focused on numerous same priorities he had always held: promoting better relations between the Catholic and Jewish communities, celebrating Mass every day and staying in touch with friends. "We're saddened with his passing but we pray that he is with the Lord in joy".

"Cardinal Keeler was an extraordinary global leader in building human bridges of mutual respect and understanding between Roman Catholics and the Jewish people". He then attended Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he was ordained in 1955.

The President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston released a statement remembering Cardinal Keeler as someone who "was greatly known for his work as a faith leader in ecumenism and interreligious affairs". Six years later, he succeeded the retiring William Donald Borders as the 14th Archbishop of Baltimore. As president of the USA bishops' conference from 1992 to 1995, he participated in a wide range of national and worldwide issues. In 1987, he helped arrange meetings between the pope and American Jewish leaders, who felt stung by John Paul II's earlier reception at the Vatican of former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, alleged to have past Nazi links. He served two separate stints as chair for the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

When faced with having to close or consolidate services at Baltimore churches, Keeler looked at the situation positively.

At the same, Keeler "was always very unassuming and modest in his interactions with people", he said.

"He loved to serve, he loved prayer, he loved the lord, and he was very insurmountable bringing the faith to all different people's and avenues of people", said Poston. He was elevated to cardinal on November 26, 1994.

Read the article in The Baltimore Sun.

"The first thing he said to me was 'Ernie, you're back.'". "The hard challenge is to share the message that Jesus is alive in whatever city you live in".

Keeler was a priest for 37 years and served as an expert adviser to Pope John XXIII at the reforming Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. "But it is also sacramental". The Appeal ($96 million) and Heritage of Hope ($133 million) have also raised critical financial support to sustain and grow parishes, evangelization programs, and the work of Catholic Charities. Pope John Paul II visited Baltimore in 1995 and Mother Teresa visited in 1992 and 1996.

Cardinal Keeler's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 223 members, 17 of whom are from the United States. He said he took the allegation against Blackwell "very seriously", and regretted reinstating him.

Jarboe called Keeler a "classic churchman" who accepted his roles with others in mind. "While we salute his many lasting achievements, AJC has lost a loving friend and a trusted colleague". "I apologize for instances in which our efforts have failed".

Poston says Cardinal Keeler was a man of integrity and was influential in helping to rebuild trust after the clergy child abuse crisis in 2001. The Cardinal sustained a broken ankle and would subsequently be diagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, a condition that possibly resulted from trauma suffered in the vehicle accident. He retired in 2007, at the age of 76. He remained a cardinal until his death, and continued to live in the Baltimore area.

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