Prayer vigil for Bishop Walter Sullivan - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Prayer vigil for Bishop Walter Sullivan

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

Many people from the Catholic community came out to remember former Bishop Walter Sullivan.

The bishop lost his battle with liver cancer Tuesday night. He died at home. Bishop Sullivan was 84-years-old. Leaders at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Henrico say Bishop Sullivan found out he had liver cancer just three weeks before his passing. He had a good long life, but still people in this community say they're shocked to see him go.

Elizabeth Shepherd says she was just a teenager when Bishop Sullivan was ordained.

"It was a big shock, because he was a man with such stamina, I didn't expect it to be quite that fast," said Shepherd.

The retired bishop - was a progressive leader. He caused controversy by opening his churches to gays and lesbians, condemning wars in Vietnam and the Middle East and speaking out against the death penalty.

"He always put people first and because of that, he occasionally made some people nervous, ruffled some feathers here in Virginia and at the Vatican too but he did it with such personal integrity and moral authority so folks always responded positively in the end," said Father Michael Renninger.

"I think he really wanted to make sure, that people knew that the church was a place that was open to everyone," said Shepherd.

Bishop Sullivan loved the church and he loved his community.

"One of things the bishop was famous for in terms of his personal life was his love for schnauzers and he had several schnauzers over the years, he loved those dogs and early in the morning, he could be found walking in Monroe Park with his three schnauzers barking up a storm," said Renninger.

A man of integrity greatly respected and loved, that's how his church says Bishop Sullivan will be remembered.

Funeral arrangements for Bishop Sullivan have been made. His funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 19 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond.

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