Archbishop emeritus John Quinn of San Francisco, who led the northern California archdiocese for 18 years, has died aged 88.

Church commentator Rocco Palmo hailed him as the US hierarchy’s “last progressive ‘lion’”. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said in an announcement: “Our hearts are breaking at losing such a great priest and friend. Join me in praying for the repose of his soul.”

Archbishop Quinn was the sixth Archbishop of San Francisco, serving from 1977 until 1995. He was president of what is now the US Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1977 to 1980.

After his retirement he called for major reforms to the Curia and the College of Cardinals, arguing that current structures hindered Christian unity. Mr Palmo said that Pope Francis had “eagerly sought out the retiree as a sounding board for his own plans to enhance synodality in the Western Church”.

Born in 1929 in Riverside, California, he was ordained a priest aged 38 and became Archbishop of Oklahoma City five years later. He served in that capacity for five years, then was appointed to lead the San Francisco archdiocese.

He served there until he was 66, having asked St John Paul II to appoint a coadjutor bishop so he could retire early. “I have served as a bishop for almost 30 years,” he said.

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