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Former Archbishop John Roach dies
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John R. Roach was ordained as a priest in 1946. Instructor and later headmaster at St. Thomas Academy. Rector, pastor, vicar and bishop at various parishes from 1968 to 1975. Appointed Archbishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1975, serving until retirement in 1995. Member of dozens of boards of directors, committees and associations. Was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1980 to 1983. (Courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)

St. Paul, Minn. — The first Minnesota native to head the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis died Friday. Former Archbishop John Roach, 81, died at Little Sisters of the Poor, also known as the Holy Family Residence, in St. Paul.

"Archbishop Roach was an outstanding church leader," said Archbishop Harry Flynn, who succeeded Roach. "He made major contributions to the lives of both Catholics and non-Catholics in this archdiocese. He was instrumental in calling national attention to social justice issues, fostering ecumenism at the local level, and building up the work of the laity."

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Image With Pope John Paul II

Roach was appointed by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

A highlight of Roach's tenure as archbishop included his work in interfaith relations, including the development and signing of the Lutheran-Catholic Covenant. And he worked with various church factions, from conservatives who hated change to liberals who wanted the church to revamp all its rules.

"The archbishop's dedication to the social mission of the church was an inspiration to all, especially those working on behalf of the church in the public policy arena," said Christopher Leifeld, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Roach also served as a leader of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

When he retired as archbishop in 1995, Roach called his years in the post "a marvelous experience."

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Image Remembering John Roach

"I have had a chance to work in a unique way with priests, deacons and the laity of this Catholic community, and I have had an opportunity to work extensively with the ecumenical and civic community," he said at the time.

He is also remembered for his mistakes, however. Those included a drunken-driving arrest and a later admission that he was an alcoholic, and clergy sex-abuse cases in the 1980s that ended in lawsuits that exposed Roach's lenient treatment of priests accused of molestation.

Roach was born in Prior Lake and was ordained a priest in 1946.

During his first four years of ministry, he taught Latin and religion at St. Thomas Academy. He was later named headmaster of the high school where he served until 1968. That year, he founded the archdiocese's college seminary, St. John Vianney Seminary.

Roach, the son of the late Simon and Mary Regan Roach, was preceded in death by his sister Virginia Leach and is survived by his sister Mona Roach Strunk of the Twin Cities.

His funeral will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the St. Paul Cathedral.

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