Madison Bishop Morlino dies at 71 from apparent heart attack

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Diocese of Madison has confirmed the death of Robert C. Morlino, the Bishop of Madison Saturday night.

In a Facebook post, the Diocese said Morlino passed away Saturday, Nov. 24. at 9:15 p.m. at St. Mary's Hospital, at the age of 71. Diocese spokesman Brent King says the bishop suffered an apparent heart attack while undergoing medical tests.

The all night prayer vigil for held Morlino, at Holy Name Heights, will end Sunday, Nov. 25. at 8:00 a.m. A mass will then be held following the prayer vigil.

As of Sunday morning, funeral plans are pending.

Before his death, the Diocese asked for prayers after Morlino was hospitalized.

"Unfortunately, matters have continued to turn for the worst and it is likely that our hope lays in a miracle at this point," spokeman Brent King said in a post on the Diocese of Madison Facebook page.

Morlino was installed the fourth bishop of Madison in August 2003. The Wisconsin State Journal reports he upheld conservative Catholic Church teachings often at odds with the diocese's more liberal members.

"He had an amazing sense of humor, so he was always cracking jokes and telling stories about his time back in the dorms," Justin Hineline, a mentee of Morlino said.

Morlino also gained a national reputation for his strong opposition to abortion and same-sex unions.

Steve Statsick, a longtime friend of Morlino, says he never wavered.

"The church lost a great man today, but he was a wonderful priest and friend and leader and he'll be greatly missed," Statsick said. "He spoke lovingly, he always told the truth but he said it with a smile. I think it's his hallmark."

A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Morlino became a priest in the Diocese of Kalamazoo in 1981. Pope John Paul II appointed him the Ninth Bishop of Helena in 1999.

Funeral arrangements are pending.