Anthony M. Pilla, a former bishop who led the Diocese of Cleveland for 25 years died Sept. 21. He was 88.

Pilla, a Cleveland native, died at his home, the diocese announced. A cause of death was not disclosed, and church officials said funeral plans would be announced at a later date.

Pilla delivered the invocation at the Cleveland Jewish News 2016 18 Difference Makers ceremony.

He also wrote a guest column for the CJN about his longtime friend, Sam Miller, who was co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Realty Trust, after he died in March 2019.

In the column, he wrote, “I will always be grateful to Sam for teaching me that no matter how tired, no matter how pressed, no matter how harried, whenever someone in need – anyone – calls for help, answer hineni. That word has kept our civilization alive." He wrote “Sam Miller exemplified the meaning of ‘hineni.'"

Pilla was ordained to the priesthood in May 1959 and served as a teacher at a Catholic high school in Wickliffe and later became its rector-president. He then held various positions within the diocese before he was named auxiliary bishop in 1979.

Pilla was installed as the ninth bishop of Cleveland in January 1981 and served until his retirement in May 2006. He also served as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1995 to 1998.

Among his accomplishments as bishop was a Church in the City initiative that became a national model for challenging communities to recognize the human costs of suburban sprawl. He also did not order widespread closings of urban parishes as Catholics moved from those areas, stating that active worshiping communities were a vital part of city neighborhoods.

The Cleveland Diocese is home to nearly 700,000 Catholics in eight counties of northeast Ohio.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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