Wednesday, August 20 2014 1:35 PM EDT2014-08-20 17:35:47 GMT
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Tuesday, August 19 2014 4:10 PM EDT2014-08-19 20:10:07 GMT
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Father Gerald Robinson, a priest convicted of the 1980 murder of a nun inside a Toledo hospital, will receive the same funeral as all other diocesan priests, according to officials of the Diocese of Toledo.
Diocesan Administrator Father Charles Ritter said, "Whether in the eyes of God Father Robinson was or was not guilty of this crime, I do not know. I do know that he is the work of God's hands, as are we all."
Father Ritter added, "He was a sinner, as are we all. He was a baptized member of the body of Christ, and he was, and remains an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the context in which his funeral will take place. "
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Father Robinson died at 4:15 a.m. Friday, July 4, in a hospice unit at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus. The announcement off his passing was made by his attorney, Rick Kerger.
Robinson had been in the hospice unit for the past month.
Kerger says he had just spoken to Robinson on Thursday to tell him a federal court denied his motion for release to Toledo, to live out his days with family.
Robinson, 76, was convicted in 2007 of the cold case murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.
Sister Pahl was murdered in 1980 while she and Father Robinson were assigned to Mercy Hospital in downtown Toledo.
Church historians have said this is the only documented case of a Catholic priest killing a nun, but people who knew Father Robinson are convinced he died an innocent man.
"There's no way you could tell me he did this," said Matt Zaleski. "I wish we would have had more time to clear his name."
Zaleski served as an alter boy for the priest. He says Robinson touched his life and others in Toledo's Polish community. Father Robinson was there to celebrate Zaleski's parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and to comfort them when they were dying.
"He never lashed out. He never got upset. He always had a calm demeanor," Zaleski said.
But the 2006 murder trial painted a different picture. Robinson and Sister Pahl worked together at Mercy Hospital, where he was a chaplain and she was a caretaker. Evidence showed the 71-year-old nun was killed while preparing the chapel for Easter services. She was choked, and then stabbed 31 times.
Robinson's attorneys said DNA evidence from 24 years earlier didn't link him to the crime.
"Every way that I know him in life says this is not the type of man who does this type of an action," Zaleski said.
Robinson was serving a 15-years-to-life sentence, and had lost several appeals.
Zaleski says he exchanged monthly letters with the priest, and says Robinson never lost his faith.
"He said, ‘God's doing this for a reason. We have to trust in God's will,'" Zaleski said.
Father Robinson died a Roman Catholic priest, so he will be buried in the Church. His family will meet with representatives from the Toledo Catholic Diocese to make funeral arrangements.