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Bishop of Youngstown George V. Murry dies from leukemia at 71

He had been battling the disease on & off for two years.
Credit: Diocese of Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Most Rev. George V. Murry, the fifth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, has died at the age of 71 following a long battle with cancer.

The diocese announced that Murry passed away Friday morning at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, New York. The bishop had been undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, which he had been battling on and off for two years.

Born in Camden, New Jersey, Murry converted to Catholicism as a kid after initially being baptized in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was ordained a priest in the Jesuit Order in 1979, and 16 years later was named an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Pope John Paul II.

After a stint as coadjutor bishop in the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Murry to replace Thomas J. Tobin as Bishop of Youngstown in 2007. His 13-year tenure saw a reconfiguration of parishes as well as the aftermath of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the latter seeing Murry engage with various parishes and laypeople despite the fact the vast majority of the cases took place before his arrival.

Murry aligned himself as a supporter of Pope Francis' "modern" approach to the Church, and voiced his approval for measures such as possibly allowing civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to take holy communion. At the time of his death, he was also Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and used his status as one of America's few black Catholic leaders to speak out on issues of inequality and discrimination.

In the last public statement of his life, Murry addressed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has sparked outrage and protests across the country. The bishop said "the fight to eradicate racism is a pro-life issue."

"Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue when convenient," he wrote. "It is a real and present danger that must be met head on."

Murry's cancer had been in remission, but just last week he requested the pope allow him to resign after it returned and took and even greater toll on his health. His passing now leaves both of Northeast Ohio's major Catholic dioceses without permanent bishops, as Cleveland's Nelson Perez was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia earlier this year.

No details have been released regarding who will lead the Diocese of Youngstown in the interim. Funeral arrangements for Murry are pending, with restrictions likely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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