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Cardinal William Keeler, former Harrisburg bishop, dies at age 86

Written by Marie Cusick | Mar 23, 2017 2:54 PM
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FILE PHOTO: Cardinal William Keeler, right. (AP Photo/ Steve Ruark)

*This story has been updated to include a statement from Bishop W. Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg*

(Catonsville, Md.) -- Cardinal William Keeler, who helped ease tensions between Catholics and Jews and headed the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S. for 18 years, has died. He was 86.

Archbishop William Lori announced in a statement that Keeler died early today at St. Martin's Home for the Aged in Catonsville, Maryland. No cause of death was released.

Keeler, a Lebanon native, retired in 2007 as the head of the archdiocese of Baltimore.

He served as the seventh bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg from 1983 to 1989 and spent more than three decades in the midstate.

In a statement, Bishop W. Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg said Cardinal Keeler was "a true Churchman whom we are greatly honored to have called a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg."

"This area and Diocese benefited significantly from his leadership and passion for service and evangelization," he said. "Most notably, during his time as a priest and bishop, he worked fruitfully to advance increased cooperation and warmer relationships between different Christian communities, both locally and nationally."

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FILE PHOTO: In this Nov. 12, 2006, file photo, Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler listens during the Bishops' Mass at The Baltimore Basilica in Baltimore. Keeler, who helped ease tensions between Catholics and Jews, has died. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner, File)

Keeler devoted much of his clerical life to improving ties with other denominations, especially Jews.

"He was somebody who was very dedicated to the church and faith, but also just people in general. He was a man who had great vision for the important role of faith in the community," said Joe Aponick, director of communications for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

From 1992 to 1995, he was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also served as moderator for Catholic/Jewish Relations and was a member of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Keeler urged religious leaders to tackle the world's problems together.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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