ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester (DOR) announced Sunday morning that Bishop Emeritus Matthew Clark has died at age 85. Rochester and our region’s Catholic community are mourning the loss of a longtime leader.

Bishop Clark’s death comes following a period of “declining health.”

Bishop Clark was the former head of the DOR, spending over 30 years as bishop from 1979 to 2012. He led 300,000 of Rochester’s Catholics, where he developed a reputation for being progressive and inclusive, inviting women to play a larger role at mass, and welcoming gay and lesbian individuals into the church.

Bishop Clark was ordained as a priest in 1962 in Rome for the Diocese of Albany. In May of 1979, he was ordained a bishop and was subsequently installed as the eighth Bishop of Rochester in June of that year.

Clark stepped down at the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“Throughout his tenure, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ensuring the needs of people across our 12-county Diocese were met and acted as a powerful advocate for social justice,” Karen Dehais, President and Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities of the DOR, said.

Funeral arrangements for Bishop Clark are pending, according to the DOR.