Cardinal William Keeler, former Harrisburg bishop, dies at 86

Cardinal William Keeler (Archdiocese of Baltimore)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Cardinal William Keeler, a Lebanon native who was bishop of the Harrisburg diocese and archbishop of Baltimore, has died.

Keeler died Thursday morning at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville, Maryland, Archbishop William Lori announced in a statement Thursday. No cause of death was released.

He was 86 years old.

(Photo credit: Diocese of Harrisburg)

Keeler grew up in Lebanon and attended Lebanon Catholic High School. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1955.

St. John Paul II appointed him bishop of Harrisburg in 1983 and archbishop of Baltimore in 1989. The pope elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1994. He was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1992 to 1995.

He retired as the head of the Baltimore archdiocese in 2007.

Harrisburg Bishop W. Ronald Gainer in a statement said Keeler’s roots and Catholic education in Lebanon prepared him to do great work.

“This area and diocese benefited significantly from his leadership and passion for service and evangelization,” Gainer 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. In addition, he served at an international level to foster dialogue and understanding with those of the Jewish faith.”

“I thank God for his priestly life and ministry and for his inspiring service to all,” Gainer said. “May we all pray that the powerful mercy of Jesus has ushered him into the eternal life of heaven.”

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