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Father Leonard Klein, Cathedral of St. Peter rector in Wilmington, pro-life leader, dies at 74

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Father Leonard Klein and Bishop Malooly during the Cathedral of St. Peter 200 Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Father Leonard Roy Klein, rector of the Cathedral of Saint Peter, and pastor of Saint Patrick and Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parishes in Wilmington died Dec. 4 after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.

The first and only married man to be ordained to the priesthood for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Father Klein leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Christa, and two adult children and their families. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Renate, who died in 2016.

Father Leonard Klein

“He’s been a tremendous gift to us,” said Bishop W. Francis Malooly in a phone interview from Rome where he met this week with Pope Francis during his “ad limina” visit. Bishop Malooly said he spoke with Father Klein several days ago and told him he remained in his prayers.

“He was a dedicated and committed pastor,” Bishop Malooly said. “I’ll remember him as someone who answered his calling. He’ll be truly missed.”

Born Aug. 4, 1945 in Easton, Pa., Father Klein earned a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from Yale College, a master of divinity from Yale Divinity School and a master of sacred theology from Christ Seminary-Seminex. Ordained to the Lutheran ministry in 1972, he served as a pastoral intern, associate pastor, pastor and senior pastor for Lutheran congregations in New York and Pennsylvania. He served on numerous boards and committees and had written and lectured on various topics during his career as a Lutheran minister.

Father Klein was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2003. Later that year he was accepted as a seminarian for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and began his studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli, on April 1, 2006, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Wilmington.

Father Klein’s early assignments were as a member of the diocesan Family Life Bureau, and Hospital Chaplain. In 2011 he was made pastor of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception and Saint Patrick Churches. In 2013, he was assigned as rector of the Cathedral of Saint Peter, in addition to the other two parishes. Father Klein served as chaplain to the Saint Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington, and member of the board of Saint Francis Hospital in Wilmington. A staunch supporter of pro-life causes and advocate for the vulnerable, Father Klein served as Director of the Office for Pro-Life Activities and Chair of the Respect Life Committee for the Diocese of Wilmington for many years.

Funeral arrangements are pending.