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Father Bertram Griffin, former president of the Canon Law Society, ecumenist, and champion of the poor, died last week of cancer. He was 68.

Father Griffin, a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland for the past 43 years, received his doctorate in canon Law in 1964 from Lateran University in Rome, during the Second Vatican Council.

He contributed to making the Canon Law Society of America what it is today.

Father Griffin last year received the Lumen Gentium ('Light of the Nations') from Mount Angel. The medal honors those who 'have contributed significantly to the pastoral mission of the church and have shown by their life and work that they are a 'light for the nations.' '

Father Griffin was also known for his community and pastoral work as inner-city pastor of St. Andrew's Parish in Northeast Portland, where he established one of the first pastoral councils in Oregon. Under his leadership in the 1970s, St. Andrew's became a hub of social action and a welcoming place for the neighborhood's low-income African-Americans.

He was pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in downtown Portland when he died.

A vigil service was planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday night at St. Mary Cathedral. The funeral Mass was to be held 11 a.m. Thursday at the cathedral, with Archbishop John Vlazny concelebrating with priests of the archdiocese.

'Father Griffin was the most beloved and highly respected priest in the archdiocese,' Archbishop Vlazny said.

'He was held in high esteem by his fellow priests and people themselves. He was a good man, and that's what makes a good priest.'

'We lost a great prophet and a good friend,' said Father Ray Carey. 'God bless him.'

Father Griffin was active in Ecumenical Ministries and served as the statewide group's president. He nurtured dialogue between Catholic priests and rabbis. He also helped start local Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.

Father Griffin helped establish the Portland Organizing Project, a grassroots coalition of churches still active today, and was a founding member and president of Oregon Fair Share, a citizen-action group.

At the same time, the priest earned a national reputation for envisioning the future of the church. He is remembered across the country for lecture tours.

Father Griffin was born Jan. 28, 1932, in Los Angeles. He moved to Portland as a youth and attended Central Catholic High School until his senior year, when he entered Mount Angel Seminary's high school, where he graduated in 1949. He went on to Mount Angel College, where he graduated in 1953.

He attended seminary at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Wash., and graduated in 1957 with a master's in divinity.

He was ordained on May 17, 1957, by Archbishop Edward Howard.

Father Griffin worked as chancellor for the Archdiocese of Portland off and on 1964-74. He served as rector of the archdiocese's House of Studies on the Portland State University campus from 1968 to 1970.

He served as an assistant pastor at both St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton and the Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland.

He was pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Northeast Portland, St. Pius X in Southwest Portland, and most recently St. Michael in downtown Portland. He also taught at Mount Angel Seminary and at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He received several awards including the Canon Law Society's Role of Law award, the Russell Peyton Award for humanitarian work in 1981 from the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission and the Vollum Ecumenical Humanitarian Award in 1991 from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

He died while in the care of a hospice.

Father Griffin is survived by his sisters Pamela Griffin, Ann McMahon and Alicia Griffin; brother Robert and the priests of the Archdiocese of Portland. He was preceded in death by a brother, James.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Archdiocese of Portland Priests' Retirement Fund.