HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, died at the age of 91 on Monday, the diocese said in a statement.
"Rest in peace, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza. Please pray for the repose of the soul of our dear Archbishop Emeritus," St. Matthew the Evangelist Catholic Church said in a Facebook post.
The Beaumont native served as bishop of the diocese from 1985 to 2006 before retiring. In the Catholic tradition, bishops and archbishops are required to resign at the age of 75.
That's when he was succeeded by Daniel DiNardo. DiNardo was later elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2007.
"Archbishop Fiorenza was known to be a champion of civil rights and a tireless worker in overcoming the presence of racism in our community. He was also known as a great promoter of genuine renewal in the Church, and in making the teachings of the Second Vatican Council known," Archbishop of Galveston-Houston DiNardo said.
His work is immortalized at the Brigitte and Bashar Kalai Plaza of Respect at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston. He was one of the so-called "Three Amigos," whom three pillars stand for. It's in honor of their dedication to justice, harmony, and peace in Houston, particularly during the civil rights era.
Fiorenza, Rabbi Samuel Karff, and Reverend William Lawson worked together to desegregate Houston and advocate for the poor. Their work led to the creation of public defenders in Harris County, and Fiorenza also marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.
Father Miguel Solorzano, who leads St. Bartholomew Church in Katy, said he admires Fiorenza's impact on the community and his own life.
Fiorenza ordained Solorzano and sent him on his first assignment as a priest. Solorzano said he advised him to be a humble servant and dedicated leader in the church.
"Those of us who knew him will give testimony of the kind of life he lived. He was an example for all of us," Reverand Lawson, the last remaining pillar of Houston's civil rights era, said. "Joe spoke in a quiet voice, but he was a strong presence wherever he went. I will always miss him."
"He was a good priest. He was a good bishop. He was faithful. He was caring. He was a shepherd. That's what a priest should be, a shepherd, like Jesus," Solorzano said.
Archbishop Fiorenza's funeral arrangements are pending and will be communicated once they are finalized, the diocese said.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is the largest in Texas, with 150 parishes.
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