Retired San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn, who led the archdiocese from 1977-95 and was internationally known for his leadership on social justice and his scholarly writing on the theme of diversity in a unified global church, died June 22 at age 88, the archdiocese announced.

After a long hospitalization at St. Mary’s Medical Center, Archbishop Quinn had moved to the Jewish Home of San Francisco for skilled nursing care less than a week earlier, on June 16.

“He stated several times since his move that he had achieved his goal of leaving the hospital for a new home where he could enjoy the fresh air, trees and the sounds of birds in the early morning,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said. “The initial days at Jewish Home had gone extremely well, but Archbishop Quinn experienced difficulties with his breathing early this morning. He was transported to the nearest hospital, but could not be revived. Our hearts are breaking at losing such a great priest and friend.”

Services are pending, Archbishop Cordileone said.

Archbishop Quinn served as the sixth Archbishop of San Francisco from April 26, 1977, until Dec. 27, 1995. He was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1977 to 1980.

Throughout his tenure as archbishop, John Raphael Quinn was a fierce social justice advocate who oversaw and at times was buffeted by tumultuous change in the global and local church.

Archbishop Quinn’s tenure included the onset of the AIDS crisis in the early-1980s, Pope St. John Paul II’s visit in 1987, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the rise of the sanctuary movement for undocumented immigrants.

On the feast of St. Francis, Oct. 4, 1981, Archbishop Quinn “made a powerful denunciation of the arms race” in a sermon at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Burns writes. “Though Quinn delivered the sermon with some trepidation, the reaction of the crowd shocked him – they rose to their feet and gave him a roaring standing ovation,” Burns writes.

He helped implement the 1981 creation of the Diocese of San Jose and in 1993 commissioned a controversial pastoral plan that recommended the closure of a number of Archdiocese of San Francisco parishes.

Archbishop Quinn published pastoral letters including “On Central America” in 1983, criticizing U.S. military involvement in Central America, and “The AIDS Crisis: A Pastoral Response” in 1986.

“I always think it’s one of the great secrets of San Francisco County that Archbishop Quinn and Catholic Charities reached out very early on in the epidemic to serve people who had HIV and AIDS,” George Simmons, former senior program director at Catholic Charities Assisted Housing and Health, said in a recent interview with Catholic News Agency. “I think it was a part of the faith of the Catholic community to say – I hate to use this cliche – but, ‘what would Jesus do?’”

A theology professor and seminary rector before he became a bishop, Archbishop Quinn maintained a keen interest in theological and ecclesial matters, and was able to pursue this interest in greater earnest after his retirement.

Taking to heart St. John Paul’s call in “Ut Unum Sint,” his 1995 encyclical on ecumenism, that Christian church leaders and their theologians to help him find a way of exercising papal primacy that would better foster Christian unity. Archbishop Quinn gave a lecture the following year at Oxford University in which he called for major Roman Curia reforms, new ways of selecting bishops and a new ecumenical council.

The outgrowth of the Oxford lecture was a 1999 book, “The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity.” The book won first place for best popular presentation of the Catholic faith in the Catholic Press Association’s 2000 book awards, but was reportedly received coolly at the Vatican.

Calling the Curia’s structure is “a serious impediment” to Christian unity, “I firmly believe that if the politics and processes of the Curia do not change,” Christian unity will remain elusive, Archbishop Quinn said after the book’s publication.

He similarly called for a called for a re-examination of the role of the College of Cardinals, which he said presented a stumbling block to Christian unity. He made the comments in an interview with an Italian magazine that year. He added that future ecumenical councils of the world’s bishops should include other Christian leaders, especially Orthodox, as full members.

In a March 11, 2013, article in National Catholic Reporter, titled “Governance in the Legacy of Vatican Council II,” Archbishop Quinn advocated for a greater role for bishops’ conferences in communion with Rome. “Modern episcopal conferences in the Latin church of the West could be given the same powers and functions of patriarchates,” he wrote. “This means that the conferences would be empowered to deal with such things as the appointment and transfer of bishops, the establishment of dioceses, questions of liturgy and other matters of Catholic practice and observance.

In a July 21, 2013, interview with Vatican Insider, Archbishop Quinn mentioned meeting Pope Francis.

“When I met him he told me that he had read my recent book on structures of communion and without commenting on the book itself he mentioned how ‘important’ the subject of collegiality and synodality are for the church today,” he said.

Archbishop Quinn began writing for the Jesuit magazine America in 1968, covering topics including church governance and the priesthood. In an April 13, 2010, address to the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, published in America on May 3, 2010, Archbishop Quinn repeated the question once asked by the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner: “Why would a modern a man want to remain a priest?”

“This great theologian tackles the question with stunning simplicity,” Archbishop Quinn said. “He begins be saying that for him, it is not the great works of the church in the service of justice and peace, the great universities and the great movements and programs. ‘Rather,’ he says, ‘I still see around me living in many of my brother priests a readiness for unselfish service carried out quietly, a readiness for prayer, for abandonment to the incomprehensibility of God, for the calm acceptance of death in whatever form it may come, for the total dedication to the following of Christ crucified.”’

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.