Millions concerned for George as he urges talks about his successor
Some Catholics will pray with Cardinal Francis George on Sunday.
Many more will be praying for him.
Cardinal George is putting up a brave fight as he battles cancer and goes through chemotherapy sessions again.
The 77-year-old George was able to keep his speaking engagement at St. Xavier University on April 8 and told that audience that he plans on participating in Holy Week services and plans on presiding at Easter Sunday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.
On the down side, he is not able to take a trip to Rome for the important canonization ceremony of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, which takes place April 27.
“They spelled out the dangers,” George said at SXU. “I can’t risk another infection. It would be very foolish to go over there.”
And it might be time to start thinking of a replacement.
It’s hard for people to talk about this subject but Cardinal George’s run will end. Whether it’s in weeks, months or longer it is going to happen and the more than two million Catholics that he represents are likely wondering who takes over when he steps down.
George told the SXU audience that the process of selecting his successor has not started yet but three days later in a meeting with reporters he said the process should begin soon because “It’s not fair to the archdiocese to have someone who may not be able to do the job the way it should be done.’’
The speculation is that a man from Louisville could be coming to town to take the job when it becomes available.
Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz is
rumored to be in line to take over. He was in Chicago earlier in the month for a meeting of religious leaders and didn’t seem comfortable talking about it when he was quizzed by CBS Chicago News.
“You’re flattering to even ask me about that. Those kinds of things are best not anticipated,” Kurtz said. “Our Holy Father said ‘when you are assigned to a diocese, you throw yourself into that.’
“Certainly I’ve never refused an appointment, but my desire right now is very much to serve the people in Louisville.”
When asked if it would be difficult to follow George and his legacy, the 67-year-old Kurtz said, “How could it not be?”
Kurtz was installed as Louisville’s fourth archbishop on Aug. 15, 2007. Before coming to Louisville he served as bishop of Knoxville from 1999 to 2007, according his biography supplied by the Archdiocese of Louisville. He is originally from Pennsylvania.
He was elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 12 and serves on the executive and administrative committees of that body.
George told reporters Friday that he doesn’t think he will be dying in the next few months. He has always informed the public about his health and in March he wrote about the latest setback in his Catholic New World column.
“While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death,” he said. “Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life.”
He also asked for people’s prayers during this time.
George brought up retirement but did not offer a clear answer.
“I imagine this news will increase speculation about my retirement,” he said. “The only certainty is that no one knows when that will be, except perhaps the Holy Father, and he hasn’t told me. As required by the Code of Canon Law, I submitted my resignation two years ago [which is a required formality for Cardinals who turn 75] and was told to wait until I heard from the pope. The consultation the pope makes through the Apostolic Nuncio takes a good number of months, and it hasn’t formally started yet.”
Meanwhile it’s still possible that George, the only archbishop in Chicago history to serve at age 75, might get through this latest setback. After all, he fought through polio as a kid and survived bladder cancer in 2006 but it returned in his kidney and liver in 2012.
In between the cancer battles, he uttered one of his most famous quotes about dying and martyrdom.
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square,” he said. “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”