A Romanian Orthodox bishop who was the first senior cleric to acknowledge collaborating with the feared Securitate communist secret police has died. He was 90.

Nicolae Corneanu, the bishop of Banat, who irritated Romanian Orthodox Church leaders with his non-traditional views, died Sunday at his residence, church spokesman Lucian Florea said.

In 1997, he confessed he had been an informer since 1948 and had excommunicated five dissident priests in 1981 who had accused church leaders of prostituting the church to the demands of communist rulers.

He apologized and gained popularity although he irked church leaders with his tolerance of Catholics and homosexuals.

President Traian Basescu Monday praised "his interfaith dialogue."

Corneanu's confession confirmed suspicions that Orthodox church clergy had close links with the Securitate and top state organizations under Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.