Retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, who was a tireless advocate for social justice, died Sept. 19. He was 91.
The Beaumont, Texas, native served as bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, 1985 -2006, and was made archbishop in 2004, when the diocese was elevated to the status of archdiocese by St. John Paul II.
Archbishop Fiorenza was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops-U.S. Catholic Conference, now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1998-2001.
"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," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, who succeeded Archbishop Fiorenza as head of the archdiocese.
Archbishop Fiorenza also served on the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee in the mid-1990s, and was conference vice president, 1995-1998, before he was elected to a three-year term as conference president.
He also served on the bishops' committee on Black Catholics and was a board member of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Archbishop Fiorenza was an advocate for social justice issues and a supporter of interfaith collaboration for positive social change across all social and economic borders. He often spoke out against the death penalty—in a state with a high number of executions. In a 2001 report at the end of his term as bishops' conference president, Archbishop Fiorenza said he was gratified about the increasing Catholic opposition to the death penalty, especially among young people.
He studied for the priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary in La Porte, Texas. He was ordained a priest for the Galveston-Houston Diocese in 1954. In 1979, he was named bishop of San Angelo, Texas. He was named to head the Galveston-Houston Diocese in December 1984 and was installed in February 1985.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted Archbishop Fiorenza's resignation Feb. 26, 2006.