Remembering Bishop Sullivan

It is with deep regrets that we note the passing of the Most Reverend Walter F. Sullivan, Bishop Emeritus of Richmond. Sullivan served as the 11th bishop of the Richmond diocese, first being appointed as auxiliary bishop in 1970 and four year later as bishop in his own right. Bishop Sullivan came to be viewed as a progressive voice in the Catholic Church. His ministry proved influential in opening the church to a more active role for women and in welcoming gays and lesbians. Bishop SullivanA committed spokesperson for the rights and dignities of all minorities, his was a reasoned voice against injustice and intolerance of all sorts. The Associated Press noted: "Before he retired in 2003, the diocese had 24 advisory committees representing youth, women, homosexuals, blacks and senior citizens – all of which he consulted regularly."

Bishop Sullivan assumed an active role in bridging gaps between faith communities. He took great pride in his efforts to establish a meaningful relationship and significant dialogue with the Jewish community. An example of his efforts resulted in the diocese commissioning a sculpture, Rachel Weeping for Her Children. Created by sculptor Linda Gissen, the statue was installed on the grounds of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond and offers, according to The Catholic Virginian, a "lasting and visible sign in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust." It is the only such Holocaust memorial located on the grounds of a cathedral in the United States. In 2011, leaders of Richmond’s Jewish community made a major gift to the Preservation Campaign at the Cathedral in honor of Bishop Emeritus Sullivan’s constructive ecumenical outreach to Jews. 

Long a friend and supporter of the Museum, the Bishop donated $50,000 of diocesan funds to the Museum as the new site was under construction. He sat on the Board of Trustees and more recently served as an Honorary Life Trustee. His passing diminishes us all, and we trust we may follow his example in battling intolerance, violence and hatred. On behalf of Chairman Marcus Weinstein, the Board of Trustees and the broader Museum family, we offer our deepest sympathies to Bishop Emeritus Sullivan’s family, colleagues, friends and former parishioners. 

Dr. Simon P. Sibelman,

Executive Director