By Derrick Blakley

CHICAGO (CBS) — He was a scholar, novelist, and Catholic Church critic. But most of all, Fr. Andrew Greeley considered himself a parish priest.

Hundreds gathered in the Beverly neighborhood to say their last goodbyes to Fr. Greeley, who died last week at age 85. And CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley was there.

Led by Cardinal George, more than 40 priests gathered at Beverly’s Christ The King parish to celebrate the funeral of Fr. Andrew Greeley. He was assigned there as a young assistant pastor.

Students from the class of 1960, said Greeley challenged convention even then.

“He told us God was a black woman,” said Kathy Wendt, a 1960 graduate of Christ The King. “He meant it was everyone. It could be anything, any person, anyone, and stereotypes were not to be taken for granted.”

By all accounts, Andrew Greeley loved being a priest, but was never shy about speaking his mind.

“You can love the church even if you don’t agree with everything the hierarchy says,” said Laura Durkin. Greeley’s niece.

Fr. Greeley wanted a wider role for church women and urged the church to squarely confront priestly abuse.

“So many of the things many of us have thought, Andy said on our behalf,” said Greeley’s friend Fr. John Cusik.

Cardinal George, who shared many nights at the opera with Greeley, said Greeley’s favorite was Verdi’s La Traviotta.

“It’s the most Catholic of the operas, because, in the end, everyone is forgiven,” said Cardinal George.

For Andrew Greeley, forgiveness was central to his faith, and so was love.

1960 Christ The King alum Peg O’Donnel said that Greeley’s most important lesson was, “To love one another unconditionally.”

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