The Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, has died aged 76.
In a statement the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: "Archbishop Peter Smith, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark, died peacefully just before midnight on Friday, 6 March. May he rest in peace and rise in glory".
He died in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, where he had been receiving palliative care after being diagnosed with cancer.
Catholics from across England and Wales have paid tribute to the popular Archbishop, who served the diverse and multi-cultural archdiocese of Southwark for nine years until his retirement last year.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said this morning: "I learnt, with great sadness, of the death of Archbishop Peter Smith. I ask everyone to pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family and the people and priests of the dioceses he served.
"Archbishop Peter devoted his life entirely and unwaveringly to the service of the Lord in His Church. Peter served as bishop in three dioceses. There are, then, many who will remember him personally and treasure those memories.
"He was a fine leader in the Bishops' Conference, acting as Vice-President for many years and leading our efforts in matters of social policy. He was a steadfast and effective opponent of all measures in favour of assisted dying. We owe him deep gratitude for his unflinching leadership.
"Peter's warmth of character and strong personality will be sorely missed, not least by me.
"May he rest in peace and rise in glory."
Charles Wookey, CEO of A Blueprint for Better Business, who worked with Archbishop Smith for 15 years when Smith was Chairman of the Bishops' Conference Department for Christian responsibility and citizenship, told The Tablet: "Archbishop Peter Smith was a wonderful man. Wise, humane, a shrewd judge of people and situations and with a great sense of humour. It was a privilege to work for him and he served the Church faithfully in the many roles he had."
The Archdiocese of Southwark asked Catholics to pray for their former archbishop in a short message announcing his death.
"Please pray for Archbishop Peter Smith, Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark, who returned to the Lord last night. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him," it read.
Catholic Voices, a group that represents Catholics views in the media, said: "Archbishop Peter Smith, Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark, returned to the Lord last night. We pray for all friends, family and loved ones at their time of loss. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen."
Archbishop Smith's death came very shortly after it was announced he had been diagnosed with cancer and admitted to hospital.
In a statement on the diocesan website on Friday, the current Archbishop of Southwark, John Wilson, said that he had administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to Archbishop Peter last Monday, and assured him of the dioceses' love and prayers.
He said that the diagnosis came at short notice and was a source of great sadness.
He continued: "Archbishop Peter is very dear to all of us, as a former priest and Archbishop of Southwark, and as a much loved friend."
He said that the medical team had advised then that there were no treatment options available and that Archbishop Peter would be kept comfortable through palliative care.
"Please keep Archbishop Peter, and his family and friends, in your prayers at this time. Please also sustain the prayers in your parishes and ask members of your community to pray for him. In himself, Archbishop Peter is completely at peace and very grateful for all the messages of prayer and support," he said.
Archbishop Smith was Bishop of East Anglia from 1995 to 2001 when he was appointed Archbishop of Cardiff. He was translated to Southwark, returning to the area of his birth in Battersea in 1943, and his education at Clapham College Catholic boys' grammar, in 2010 and stepped down last year.
After a first degree in law at Exeter, he trained at Wonersh and then gained a doctorate in canon law at the Angelicum in Rome. He was ordained in 1972 and taught at Wonersh before moving into parish ministry.