Auxiliary Bishop P. Francis Murphy, who during more than 40 years with the Catholic Church strived for social justice and better interfaith relations, died Sept. 2. He was 66.

Bishop Murphy, auxiliary to Cardinal William H. Keeler, learned in January that he had cancer that had spread to his liver. He died at 7:50 a.m. at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, the archdiocese said. Bishop Murphy had planned to resign Sept. 15 from his position as western vicar. He supervised 39 parishes and four missions.

He was born in Cumberland and graduated from St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. He was ordained a priest Dec. 20, 1958.

In 1965, he was appointed priest secretary to Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, whom he assisted in implementing the teachings and changes of Vatican II. He was named auxiliary bishop by Pope Paul VI and appointed vicar general and western vicar in 1976.

Bishop Murphy co-chaired the program committee for the Ninth Jewish/Christian Workshop in 1986, an event that led to many initiatives, including the Baltimore Institute for Christian/Jewish Studies. He also was a board member of The Interfaith Alliance, an organization of Christian and Jewish leaders from across the nation.

Bishop Murphy was highly respected for his work on social justice issues and the status of women. "He's probably one of the two or three bishops among all of them who are the best friends of women in the church," Sister Maureen Fiedler, national coordinator of the church reform movement Catholics Speak Out, said recently. "He's tried the hardest to understand the feelings and situation of women as they feel like second-class citizens in a church that denies them ordination."

In 1989, Bishop Murphy co-founded Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland Inc., an organization dedicated to developing safe and adequate housing for the poor.

Survivors include a brother and a sister.