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Walter Sullivan, longest-serving head of Richmond Roman Catholic diocese, dies at 84

Former Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, a progressive leader in the U.S. Roman Catholic church and the longest-serving head of the Richmond diocese, has died. He was 84.

The Catholic Virginian assistant editor Judy Lindfors says Sullivan died in Richmond on Tuesday. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Sullivan spent the majority of his life serving the church, including 29 years as bishop of the sprawling Richmond diocese and 21 years before that as a priest.

He was best known as one of the more progressive leaders in the Catholic church. 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.

Sullivan took mandatory retirement at 75 in 2003.

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