Best-selling novelist and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rev. Andrew Greeley has passed away. He was 85.
Greeley, a prolific priest, sociologist and long-time NBC analyst, wrote more than 50 novels, including international mystery thrillers that were translated into 12 languages.
In a statement, his family said their lives "have been tremendously enriched by having the presence of Fr. Andrew Greeley in our family."
"He served the Church all those years with a prophetic voice and with unfailing dedication, and the Church he and our parents taught us to love is a better place because of him. Our hearts are heavy with grief, but we find hope in the promise of Heaven that our uncle spent his life proclaiming to us, his friends, his parishioners and his many fans. He resides now with the Lord of the Dance, and that dance will go on."
Greeley was known for his conviction. During the priest sex abuse crisis as early as 1991, he was one of the very few priests who criticized the church leadership for refusing to disclose priest accusations.
In 2010, Greeley released a study based on a poll of more than 500 Illinois Catholics that found their faith is still burning brightly with 78 percent of respondents saying Catholicism is either “extremely important” or “very important” in their lives.
While Greeley had an uneasy relationship with Cardinal John Cody and Joseph Bernardin, Cardinal Francis George reached out to him and they attended the opera together. Greeley lived in the John Hancock building but also had homes in Grand Beach Michigan and Arizona. His Saturday afternoon Mass in Grand Beach was often filled with sun bathers who came in their beach attire.
Greeley was involved in an accident in November 2008 from which he never fully recovered. His jacket got caught in a cab door, and as the vehicle pulled away, the priest fell to the ground and hit his head, fracturing his skull. The fracture left him in critical condition.
A California couple in town for a wedding is credited with saving the priest, calling 911 and staying with him until paramedics arrived.
Before the incident, Greeley had lectured at the Religious Education Association conference in Rosemont and was described by the association executive secretary as "very generous and very funny."