Retired Bishop Robert Mulvee dies at 88

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rev. Robert Mulvee, former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, died Friday at St. Antoine Residence in North Smithfield following a brief illness. He was 88.

Mulvee served as Providence's bishop from 1997 to 2005. His death was announced by the diocese.

In a statement Friday, Bishop Thomas Tobin said his predecessor was a "good and gentle shepherd of God's people."

"He was a faithful follower of Christ who served the Church with dignity and compassion," Tobin said. "Please pray for the peaceful repose of his soul, and for the consolation of all those who mourn his loss.”

Mulvee was born in 1930 in Boston, and was ordained a priest in New Hampshire in 1957. After serving as an auxiliary bishop in New Hampshire, Mulvee became bishop of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1985. Pope John Paul II sent him to Providence in 1995 as coadjutor bishop to Bishop Louis Gelineau, who retired two years later. (Gelineau turned 90 last May.)

Rev. Joe Escobar is the pastor at the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Providence, and said it was Mulvee who welcomed him into the diocese years ago. 

"He's just like your grandfather, he was warm welcoming, and you could go to him with anything," Escobar said.

While Mulvee is being remembered as a humble and compassionate leader, he's also leaving behind the legacy of being brave.

Mulvee helped end a decade long legal battle in 2002 after the Diocese of Providence faced multiple counts of sexual abuse allegations.

"He handled it in a very pastoral way, which I think was very healing for the diocese as well as the victims and their families," Escobar said. 

Escobar told Eyewitness News the world will likely never know all of Mulvee's good deeds, because he was a silent hero.

"Bishop Mulvee was an integral member of Rhode Island's faith community and a faithful leader of our local Catholic community. His loss will be felt by many," Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. "Andy and I are keeping him in our thoughts and prayers."

The diocese said funeral arrangements for Mulvee will be announced as soon as they are finalized.

"Very saddened to learn that Bishop Robert Mulvee, who was an inspirational leader of Rhode Island’s Catholic community, has passed away," Congressman David Cicilline said in a statement. "A good man who will be missed deeply."

“Bishop Mulvee was quite involved in community policing issues during my years in law enforcement, and we came to know and trust each other," Sen .Sheldon Whitehouse added. "He was always a wise, patient and kindly voice, and in all our personal dealings he was warm, honorable and sincere. I am saddened by his passing.”

Tobin has said he expects to remain Providence's bishop until 2023, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.

More: Rev. Mulvee obituary, photos »

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