By Catholic News Service
SAN FRANCISCO – Retired Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, a longtime English professor and 11-year bishop of Salt Lake City, died May 2 at 80.
He had been living at Nazareth House in San Rafael, California, for several months following a diagnosis of interstitial lung disease.
“Archbishop Niederauer was known for his spiritual leadership, intelligence and wisdom, compassion and humor, and was always focused on his responsibility to live and teach the faith,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone in an announcement to the priests of the archdiocese.
“When he was named archbishop, he was asked what he would want the people of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to know about him,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “He answered, ‘I’ve chosen the motto for my coat of arms, ‘to serve and to give,’ because I am convinced servant leadership in the church defines the role of the bishop.’ ”
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, expressed sadness when he learned about the archbishop’s death. “May God’s warm embrace encircle him unto eternal life,” he said.
“His engaging wit and humor became hallmarks of his open and loving personality, and he always had just the right words and the turn of a phrase to help defuse tensions and to uplift people, no matter what cloud was overhead,” Cardinal Mahony added.
The eighth archbishop of San Francisco, Archbishop Niederauer succeeded seminary classmate and boyhood friend Cardinal William J. Levada who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2005. Archbishop Niederauer served in San Francisco from 2006 to 2012.
Born June 14, 1936, in Los Angeles, the only son of a banker-turned-homebuilder and a homemaker, Archbishop Niederauer attended Stanford University for one year before he entered Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. He was ordained to the priesthood April 30, 1962, for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
He earned a doctorate in English from the University of Southern California in 1966, and spent 27 years as English professor, spiritual director, theology teacher and rector at Saint John’s Seminary and at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles before his 1994 appointment by Saint John Paul II as bishop of Salt Lake City. He also served as associate pastor from 1962 to 1963 in the Los Angeles area.
In retirement, Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Niederauer shared a home on the grounds of Saint Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California. During his nearly five years of retirement, he regularly led retreats for bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and seminarians.