World's oldest Catholic bishop dies at age 104

Bishop Peter Leo Gerety is shown in a 2014 photo in Newark, New Jersey.
Bishop Peter Leo Gerety is shown in a 2014 photo in Newark, New Jersey.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The world's oldest Roman Catholic bishop, who championed civil rights and encouraged women to take a more active role in the church, has died in New Jersey at age 104, church officials said on Wednesday (Sept 21).

Peter Leo Gerety, who had served as head Archdiocese of Newark for 12 years, passed away on Tuesday evening at the St Joseph's Home for the Elderly in Passaic County.

"His local church of Newark mourns a remarkable churchman whose love for the people of God was always strong and ever- growing," Newark Archbishop John Myers said in a statement.

Funeral services have not yet been set.

Gerety, born in Shelton, Connecticut, was ordained to priesthood in 1939. His work included 27 years as a priest in his home state, where he devoted himself to the needs of black Catholics.

Gerety founded an interracial social and religious centre in the 1950s and joined the civil rights movement the following decade.

In 1974, Pope Paul IV appointed Gerety as Archbishop of Newark, a title he held until retirement.

During his tenure in New Jersey, Gerety promoted equality for women in the church and asked parishes to appoint more women to leadership roles.

Gerety was predeceased by eight brothers and survived by numerous nieces and nephews.