Missouri bishop dies in Ireland after cancer fight

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Roman Catholic Bishop Raymond James Boland, the retired leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has died after returning to his native Ireland to enter hospice care.

Boland, who had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, died Thursday while surrounded by family in Cork, Ireland, diocese spokesman Jack Smith said. Boland was 82.

“He wanted to be buried in the church where he was baptized,” Smith told The Associated Press.

Smith said it was Boland’s third fight with cancer, having beat both colon and throat cancer in the past. Boland, weak from radiation treatment, left Saturday for Ireland accompanied by his brother, a retired bishop in Savannah, Ga., according to the diocese.

Growing up in Ireland with three younger brothers, Boland excelled at hurling, rugby and other sports but also found an early love for great literature, which helped in his first calling to be a teacher. He also studied architecture, but ultimately he was called by missionary priesthood, according to the diocese.

Ordained in 1957, he spent 31 years with the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he helped prepare for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979. The diocese says he and his brothers enabled their mother to fly in from Ireland and receive communion from the pope.

He became bishop in Birmingham, Ala., in 1988, before serving as bishop in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese from June 1993 until May 2005, when he retired and became bishop emeritus.

Bishop Robert Finn, who succeeded Boland in Kansas City-St. Joseph, said in a statement late Thursday that Boland was a joyful, highly organized priest full of stories. Finn said his job may have been easier had he not replaced a man “who was not so capable and well loved.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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