Archbishop Edward T. O'Meara, who had been president and chairman of the Baltimore-based Roman Catholic agency assisting war and disaster victims worldwide, died in Indianapolis Friday after a long illness. He was 70.
The prelate, who also headed the Indianapolis archdiocese, was diagnosed last summer with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease.
He died at home, where he had been bedridden since Jan. 5, when he asked to be discharged from Indiana University Hospital, the Rev. David Coats said.
The illness caused him to resign in September as head of Catholic Relief Services, which has its headquarters in Baltimore.
"He's a splendid gentleman, and has a tremendous sense not only of the world condition but also a feel for the downtrodden," said Lawrence Pezzullo, executive director of the agency.
Affiliated with the U.S. Catholic Conference, the agency was created to help refugees during World War II and expanded to a worldwide relief organization that last year distributed $230 million in aid to 74 countries.
Archbishop O'Meara was elected to the first board of directors of Catholic Relief Services in the 1970s and became its president in 1987.
As head of a 39-county archdiocese with 200,000 Catholics that covers most of the southern half of Indiana, he traditionally delivered the invocation before the Indianapolis 500 auto race.
The son of Irish immigrants, he was born in St. Louis. He was ordained a priest there in 1946. He attended Kendrick Seminary in St. Louis and later earned a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 1952.
He was named auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of St. Louis in 1972 and was installed as the fourth archbishop of Indianapolis in 1980.