LOUISVILLE — Thomas C. Kelly, who led the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville for a quarter of a century and guided it through a clergy sex-abuse scandal, died at his home parish Wednesday. He was 80.
Archbishop Kelly led a service and delivered the homily at Holy Trinity in eastern Louisville on Tuesday night, and died in the morning, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said.
"From all we can see, he died very peacefully of natural causes," Kurtz said.
Kurtz said he knew Archbishop Kelly to have "a compassionate ear" and "a real heart for the underprivileged" throughout his career.
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Kurtz said that after Archbishop Kelly's retirement, Archbishop Kelly went on a half-year sabbatical to Washington, D.C. "And then I have to say this, when he came back he became the hardest-working parish priest around," Kurtz said Wednesday afternoon at the archdiocese office.
Archbishop Kelly was born in Rochester, N.Y., ordained in 1958 and appointed the third archbishop of Louisville by Pope John Paul II in December 1981. He began his career there in February 1982. Kurtz succeeded him in 2007.
Archbishop Kelly spearheaded an education campaign that raised $20 million in 1996 and the restoration of the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville, one of the city's oldest public buildings.
"Archbishop Kelly was most proud of the renovation of the Cathedral of the Assumption," said Brian Reynolds, the archdiocese's chancellor who worked with Archbishop Kelly for 30 years. "That facility was not in good physical shape, and the faith community had gotten very small. He said it's time to have church present in the urban core."
Reynolds said Archbishop Kelly had wished to be buried in the cathedral's crypt.