Remembering Cardinal Francis George

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Cardinal Francis George has died at age 78 after years of battling cancer. In November 2014, he retired from his position following his third cancer diagnosis. Archbishop Blase Cupich was introduced as his replacement in September 2014 and took over that November. 

Cupich confirmed that Cardinal Francis George died at 10:45 am Friday. Cupich spoke about Cardinal’s life at a 2:00 pm news conference and asked for people to pray for Cardinal George’s family.

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Chicago Tonight hosts a special 30-minute special on the life of Cardinal Francis George. We commemorate his life in an obituary and reflect on the impact he had in Chicago. We’ll hear from Archbishop Blase Cupich from this afternoon’s press conference and a panel of people who knew him.

Joining us are the Rev. Donald Senior, president emeritus and professor of New Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Susan Ross, professor of theology and faculty scholar at Loyola University Chicago, and Kevin White, who’s on the board of directors of Catholic Citizens of Illinois.

In November, Chicago Tonight sat down with Cardinal Francis George before his retirement. Watch the video.

In this video, Cardinal Francis George discusses his time abroad serving the Catholic Church and how his experiences helped shape and prepare him for his return home to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago.

View a timeline of Cardinal Francis George's career.

Read Cupich's statement about the Cardinal's passing:

"A man of peace, tenacity and courage has been called home to the Lord. Our beloved Cardinal George passed away today at 10:45 am at the Residence.

Cardinal George's life's journey began and ended in Chicago. He was a man of great courage who overcame many obstacles to become a priest. When he joined the priesthood he did not seek a comfortable position, instead he joined a missionary order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and served the people of God in challenging circumstances — in Africa, Asia and all around the world.

A proud Chicagoan, he became a leader of his order and again traveled far from home, not letting his physical limitations moderate his zeal for bringing the promise of Christ's love where it was needed most. When he was ordained a bishop, he served faithfully, first in Yakima, where he learned Spanish to be closer to his people. He then served in Portland, where he asked the people to continue to teach him how to be a good bishop. In return, he promised to help them become good missionaries.

Cardinal George was a respected leader among the bishops of the United States. When, for example, the church struggled with the grave sin of clerical sexual abuse, he stood strong among his fellow bishops and insisted that zero tolerance was the only course consistent with our beliefs.

He served the Church universal as a Cardinal and offered his counsel and support to three Popes and their collaborations in the Roman congregations. In this way, he contributed to the governance of the Church worldwide.

Here in Chicago, the Cardinal visited every corner of the Archdiocese, talking with the faithful and bringing kindness to every interaction. He pursued an overfull schedule-- always choosing the church over his own comfort and the people over his own needs. Most recently, we saw his bravery first hand as he faced the increasing challenges brought about by cancer. 

Let us heed his example and be a little more brave, a little more steadfast and a lot more loving. This is the surest way to honor his life and celebrate his return to the presence of God.

As we celebrate in these Easter days our new life in the Risen Lord, join me in offering comfort to Cardinal George's family, especially his sister, Margaret, by assuring them of our prayers, thanking God for his life and years of dedication to the Archdiocese of Chicago. Let us pray that God will bring this good and faithful servant into the fullness of the kingdom.

May Cardinal George rest in peace."

The Catholic Conference of Illinois released a statement on Cardinal Francis George's death. The Cardinal served as the chairman of the Catholic Conference from his installation as Archbishop of Chicago in 1997 to his retirement in 2014. Read the statement:

“I was very sorry to learn of Cardinal George’s death,” said Executive Director Robert Gilligan. “I had the great privilege of working with Cardinal George for over 15 years. He was one of the most holy and intelligent men I have ever met.  He was my boss, but also an important mentor, and I dare say, my friend. I will miss him greatly.” 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement on the death of Cardinal Francis George:

"Cardinal Francis George led a remarkable life of faith and service. As Chicago's first native-born Archbishop, his journey took him full-circle from growing up in Portage Park to serving in far-flung missions around the globe, and eventually back home to shepherd the City of Chicago towards a better future.

He lent his counsel to those in distress, his comfort to those in despair and he inspired us all with his courage in his final days. He could always be counted on to provide those granite qualities to the countless people who relied on them when it mattered the most.

Amy and I join every Chicagoan in extending our deepest sympathies to Cardinal Francis George's family, his many friends, and the Archdiocese of Chicago during this difficult time."

Gov. Bruce Rauner released a statement regarding the Cardinal's death:

“Francis Cardinal George was the spiritual leader of millions of Catholics in and around Chicago and touched the lives of countless others through the Church's schools, pastoral care and social services. He shepherded the Church through some of its most trying times, but leaves behind a strong community of faith that has tremendous positive impact on the people of Illinois, regardless of their creed. Diana and I pray that he rest in eternal peace.”

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart issued the following statement:

"Whether saying mass for detainees at the Cook County Jail on Christmas mornings; ministering to his flock; or serving as an inspiration to people of all faiths living with cancer, Cardinal Francis George made a mark on all our lives and will be missed."

The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul University, released a statement on the death of Cardinal Francis George:

“The DePaul University community is saddened by the death of Cardinal George. Whether it was because he was a former university professor or that he had taken courses in DePaul’s music school in the 1960s, the cardinal always seemed relaxed and at home with our students. He rarely refused an invitation to say mass for them, lecture in classes or speak at major conferences. His presence to our students meant a great deal to them over the years, and we will always be grateful to him for it. May the Lord bless him abundantly.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued the following statement:

"We add our thoughts and prayers on the passing today of Cardinal George. The Cardinal was a compassionate voice to not just those within the Archdiocesan Roman Catholic community, but also to those from other faith communities. He showed admirable bravery and determination in confronting his own health issues these past few years while remaining a thoughtful mentor to many. Our deepest sympathies to his friends and family. May he rest in peace."

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk released a statement on the death of Cardinal Francis George:

“A Chicago native, Cardinal Francis George led his flock through difficult times with unwavering faith for 17 years. Cardinal George was a voice for all of Chicago’s citizens, especially the most vulnerable, and today I join the Chicago area’s more than 2 million Catholics in mourning his passing.”

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