Francis Eugene George
|Cardinal, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago|
Cardinal George at the May 2011 inauguration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel
|Appointed||April 8, 1997|
|Installed||May 7, 1997|
|Term ended||November 18, 2014|
|Successor||Blase J. Cupich|
|Other posts||Cardinal-Priest of S. Bartolomeo all'Isola|
December 21, 1963|
by Raymond Peter Hillinger
September 21, 1990|
by Agostino Cacciavillan
February 21, 1998|
by John Paul II
|Birth name||Francis Eugene George|
January 16, 1937|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
April 17, 2015 (aged 78)|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Buried||All Saints Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois|
|Parents||Francis J. and Julia R. (nee McCarthy) George|
Christo Gloria in Ecclesia |
(To Christ be Glory in the Church)
|Coat of arms|
Ordination history of
|Reference style||His Eminence|
|Spoken style||Your Eminence|
Francis Eugene George OMI (January 16, 1937 – April 17, 2015) was an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago. He was the eighth Archbishop of Chicago (1997–2014) and previously served as Bishop of Yakima (1990–1996) and Archbishop of Portland, Oregon (1996–1997).
A member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, George was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1998. He served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010.
On September 20, 2014, Pope Francis accepted George's resignation and appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, to succeed him as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In this unusual circumstance, George was permitted to remain as the incumbent archbishop until Cupich was installed to succeed him on November 18, 2014. He was initially diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and died from the disease in 2015.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Priesthood
- 3 Early episcopacy
- 4 Archbishop of Chicago
- 5 Extra-diocesan posts
- 6 Retirement
- 7 Death, reaction, and legacy
- 8 Possible cause for canonization
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Early life and education
Francis George was born on January 16, 1937 in Chicago, Illinois, to Francis J. and Julia R. (née McCarthy) George. He has an older sister, Margaret. He received his early education at the parochial school of St. Pascal Church in Chicago's Northwest Side.
George contracted polio at age 13. Due to his disability, he was rejected by Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, and instead enrolled at St. Henry Preparatory Seminary in Belleville, a high school seminary of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He joined the Missionary Oblates on August 14, 1957. He continued his studies at the Oblates novitiate in Godfrey before entering Our Lady of the Snows Seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi.
On December 21, 1963, George was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Raymond Hillinger at his home parish of St. Pascal Church. He received a Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.) degree from the University of Ottawa in 1964, followed by a Master of Arts degree in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1965. He then taught philosophy at Our Lady of the Snows Seminary in Pass Christian (1964–69), Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana (1968), and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska (1969–1973).
During his teaching assignments, George earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in American philosophy from Tulane University in 1970, and a Master of Arts in theology from the University of Ottawa in 1971. He served as provincial superior of the Midwestern Province for the Missionary Oblates in Saint Paul, Minnesota, from 1973 until 1974, when he became vicar general of his religious order. Based in Rome, he served as vicar general for 12 years. He obtained a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in 1988, with a thesis entitled: "Inculturation and communion".
On July 10, 1990, George was appointed the fifth Bishop of Yakima in Washington by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, with Bishops Roger Schwietz, O.M.I., and William S. Skylstad serving as co-consecrators, at Holy Family Church in Yakima. He took as his episcopal motto: Christo Gloria in Ecclesia (Latin: "To Christ be Glory in the Church").
George served the Diocese of Yakima for five and a half years. As a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), he served as chair of the Commission for Bishops and Scholars (1992–1994), and as a consultant to the Committees on Evangelization (1991–93), Hispanic Affairs (1994–97), and Science and Values (1994–97). He was an episcopal advisor to the Cursillo Movement (Region XII) from 1990 to 1997, and episcopal moderator of the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities from 1990 to 2008. He was a papal appointee to the 1994 World Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life, and attended the Ninth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City in October 1994.
On April 30, 1996, George was appointed the ninth Archbishop of Portland in Oregon. He was installed on the following May 27 at St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. During his brief tenure, he led the Archdiocese's response to a tape recording by the Lane County jail of an inmate's sacramental confession; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the tape recording was an unconstitutional and illegal act.
Archbishop of Chicago
Less than a year later, on April 8, 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed George the eighth Archbishop of Chicago to fill a vacancy left by the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on November 14, 1996. He was the first native Chicagoan to assume the office. On May 7 after his appointment, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio Agostino Cacciavillan installed Archbishop George as Archbishop of Chicago in Holy Name Cathedral.
On January 18, 1998, Pope John Paul II announced Archbishop George's elevation to the College of Cardinals with the title of Cardinal-Priest of San Bartolomeo all'Isola, which occurred at the consistory at the Vatican on February 21.
George was one of the 2005 cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave which selected Pope Benedict XVI, and one of the 2013 cardinal electors in the papal conclave of 2013 that selected Pope Francis.
George published a locally well-read column bi-monthly in the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper of which he, while archbishop, was the publisher, The Catholic New World, called "The Cardinal's Column". He was also the publisher of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Hispanic newspaper, Chicago Católico.
George has published at least two pastoral letters. The first, "Becoming An Evangelizing People", was released on November 21, 1997. The second was a major discourse on the sinful and destructive nature of racism, Dwell in My Love, released on April 4, 2001.
George was the author of three books. The first, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, was published in October 2009 by Crossroad Publishing Company. It is a collection of essays exploring our relationship with God, the responsibility of communion and the transformation of culture. The second, God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, was published in May 2011 by Doubleday Religion. In this collection of essays, he reflects on the significance of religious faith in the public sphere and underscores the unique contributions of religion to the common good. His final book, "A Godly Humanism: Clarifying the Hope that Lies Within," published by CUA Press, was completed just 9 days before his death in 2015. It offers an account of the Catholic intellectual life while enunciating a vision of the Church as a communion built around the relationship of God to human beings and of human beings to one another.
George was also known for continuing the work of his predecessor Cardinal Bernardin, regarding young people in the church – specifically, by addressing the archdiocese's annual Theology on Tap gathering in 1997. In his invitation to the event, he wrote, "You are very important members of the Church. Your energy, talent and faith will give me much help as together we build up our local Church to be a vital presence in the Chicago area. Together we can continue the mission of Jesus Christ to bring the Gospel of love, forgiveness and holiness to all the places where we live and encounter others."
George was a member of the board of trustees of The Catholic University of America and a member of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
In 2007, George asked Jews to reconsider descriptions of Jesus in the Talmud as a "bastard" in exchange for a softening of traditional Catholic prayers calling for Jews to be converted to Christianity. In 2009, he condemned negationist declarations made by bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the Society of Saint Pius X.
In 2010, George spoke at Brigham Young University about the continued need for Catholics and Mormons to stand together to protect religious freedom. "In recent years, Catholics and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stood more frequently side by side in the public square to defend human life and dignity," George said. He also praised the LDS Church for its efforts alongside the Catholic Church to combat poverty and pornography and the need to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Later in 2010, George further outlined the degree to which he believed religious freedoms in the United States and other Western societies were endangered. In a speech to a group of priests, he said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. 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." The quote was originally published online without the second sentence.
In a 2014 interview, George said:
I didn’t think there was any press there when I said it. I was talking to a couple of troubled priests who are worried about the secularization of our culture. I was telling them they should take the long view, step back, and renew their confidence in the providence of God. I was saying that even if the worst possible case scenario happens, we’ll be okay. It was a mental game in the Kantian sense ... let’s imagine the worst thing that could happen. Instead of wringing your hands, let’s imagine the worst possible scenario and then figure out what our role might be.
Comments on homosexuality
When a new route was proposed for the 2012 annual Chicago Pride Parade that would take it past a Catholic church, George told an interviewer: "you don't want the Gay Liberation Movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism." In response, LGBT advocates in Chicago called for George's resignation, but George said: "When the pastor's request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.". Two weeks later, George apologized: "This has evidently wounded a good number of people. I have family members myself who are gay and lesbian, so it's part of our lives. So I'm sorry for the hurt." He said he was "speaking out of fear that I have for the church's liberty and I was reaching for an analogy which was very inappropriate.... Sometimes fear is a bad motivation." LGBT rights advocates accepted his apology.
On January 1, 2013, in a pastoral letter to the Archdiocese, George stated that the passage of a same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois, which appeared imminent, would be "acting against the common good of society. This proposed legislation will have long-term consequences because laws teach; they tell us what is socially acceptable and what is not, and most people conform to the dictates of their respective society, at least in the short run".
In September 2014, in George's column in the archdiocesan newspaper, he wrote that American government and society were now approving sexual relationships so at odds with Roman Catholic belief that "the church's teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes" and that "those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger." He also cited the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. He wrote that "It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law."
Later in September 2014, George met with a gay music director of a Catholic parish who had been fired after announcing his intention to marry his partner. The man said of the meeting: "I was just again grateful for the opportunity to meet with him, for him to know me, for him to hear my story ... I think the overall tone was again pastoral."
Pope John Paul II appointed George to several offices of the Roman Curia:
- Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
- Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
- Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
- Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church
- Congregation for Oriental Churches
- Pontifical Council for Culture
- Pontifical Council Cor Unum
George was appointed by Pope John Paul II to the 1994 World Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life and a delegate and one of two special secretaries at the Synod of Bishops for America in 1997. He was a delegate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the 2001 World Synod of Bishops and was also elected to the Council for the World Synod of Bishops in 2001. He served as a delegate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for the 2008 World Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.
George served as Vice President (2004–2007) and President (2007–2010) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He served as a member, and later as a consultant, to the Committee on Divine Worship; he was also a consultant to the Committee on Doctrine and Pro-Life Activities and the Subcommittee on Lay Ministry.
George had also served on Conference of Bishops Committees on Doctrine, on Latin America, on Missions, on Religious Life, the American Board of Catholic Missions, and on World Missions; on the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism and the Subcommittee on Campus Ministry.
George was Chair of the Committee for Bishops and Scholars from 1992–1994, and of the Committee on Liturgy from 2001–2004, and a consultant to the Committees on Evangelization (1991–1993), Hispanic Affairs (1994–1997), Science and Values (1994–1997), and African American Catholics (1999–2002). He was the Representative to the International Commission on English and the Liturgy from 1997–2006.
Because of his position as Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, since 1997, when George assumed the office, until his 2014 succession by Archbishop Cupich, he had been the de facto Chancellor of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary (the Archdiocesan Seminary in the suburb of Mundelein, Illinois; both the seminary and the town are named after George Mundelein, a deceased former Archbishop of Chicago).
George was the Chancellor, from 1997 until his 2014 retirement, of the Catholic Church Extension Society. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Washington, D.C.-based The Catholic University of America, from 1993 until his death in 2015. From 1997 until his death, he had been a Trustee of the Papal Foundation. In 1994, he became a member of the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since 1997, he had been a member of the Board of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
George had been the Episcopal Liaison to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association Executive Board since 1998 and had also been the Episcopal Moderator for the Ministry of Transportation Chaplains, from 2003. He also served as Episcopal Advisor to the Cursillo Movement, Region XII, from 1990 to 1997.
From 1990 to 2008, George was Episcopal Moderator and member of the board of the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities (now known as the National Catholic Partnership on Disability). He brought personal experience to his role after a five-month bout with poliomyelitis at age 13 left him with permanent damage to his legs.
George had been Conventual Chaplain ad honorem of the Federal Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Grand Prior of the North Central Lieutenancy of the United States for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and a member of the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Awards Advisory Board. He had been a member of the Board of Directors of Oblate Media, Belleville, Illinois, since 1988.
George had been a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the American Society of Missiologists, and the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs.
In July 2011, George was chosen one of eight U.S. bishops to serve as catechists at the August 2011 World Youth Day celebration in Madrid, Spain.
On January 16, 2012, George turned 75 and formally submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. George noted he is a rarity among Chicago's bishops for having lived to see the possibility of retirement. He named the Very Reverend Father Peter F. Śnieg, Rector of St. Joseph's Seminary at Loyola University Chicago, the Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese. At that time George anticipated remaining in office for about another two or three years.
In a 2014 interview on his retirement, George said:
I’ve always said that the only thing I’d like people to remember about me is that he tried to be a good bishop. I think I have been a good bishop, in many ways, and I take some pride in at least having tried my best. That’s enough. On the liturgical stuff, I knew it had to be done and that I was in a particularly key spot to see to that what’s most important in handing on the traditions of the Church, namely our way of prayer and our liturgy, was going to be more faithfully presented to the people. That meant a lot to me, because the worship of God is the most important thing we do.
In the same interview, when asked if he saw himself as conservative, George replied:
The liberal/conservative thing, I think, is destructive of the Church’s mission and her life. I’ve said that publicly a lot at times. You’re taking a definition that comes out of nowhere, as far as we’re concerned, it’s a modern distinction, and making it the judgment of the Church’s life. It’s because we’re lazy. You put a label on people, you put a label on something, and it saves you the trouble of thinking.
George was diagnosed with an aggressive but localized form of bladder cancer in 2006. In August 2012 the Archdiocese announced that his bladder cancer had returned in his kidney and liver, and that he would undergo chemotherapy. The cancer returned in March 2014, and plans for aggressive chemotherapy treatments renewed speculation about his retirement. He was hospitalized for a few days at Loyola University Medical Center in March 2014 after showing flu-like symptoms and signs of dehydration. In April 2014, on medical advice, he canceled a trip to the Vatican. He and the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, agreed that the process for selecting his successor should begin.
George left the study by the end of the year after the drug was shown to be not effective in his case. On Friday, January 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press (AP) news story article in the online edition of the Chicago Tribune, Cardinal George, speaking to reporters at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel after receiving the highest honor of the Knights of Columbus, the Gaudium et Spes Award, named after the Second Vatican Council's Gaudium et spes document, stated that since leaving the drug trial, his doctors at Loyola had "run out of tricks in the bag" in hopes of curing the cancer, and that treatment would likely now have to switch to options that emphasize quality of life, such as palliative care, rather than extending it. At that point, the cancer was still confined to his kidney and had not spread to other vital organs.
On March 3, 2015, George was admitted to Loyola University Medical Center for tests. On March 28, George was readmitted for issues relating to pain management and hydration. On April 3, he was released.
Death, reaction, and legacy
One of George's wishes had been to visit Pope Francis before he died, which he was not able to do, to his regret. While George was always careful to express his overall agreement with and obedience to Francis, he said himself that he was confused by what signals the Pope was sending. Upon hearing of his death, Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Cupich:
Saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Francis E. George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago, I offer heartfelt condolences to you, and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese. With gratitude for Cardinal George’s witness of consecrated life as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, his service to the Church’s educational apostolate and his years of episcopal ministry in the Churches of Yakima, Portland and Chicago, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God, our heavenly Father. To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its current President, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, paid tribute to him, since he had served as its President. Many Bishops and Archbishops who had served under him, including Archbishops Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, also sent their condolences, as did some who had served with him, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City (his successor as USCCB President) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta (who had served under George's predecessor, Cardinal Bernardin, as an Auxiliary Bishop, and under them both as Bishop of Belleville, Illinois). Many prelates and public officials were expected to attend his funeral.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, stated, "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."
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner stated, "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."
A mass of Christian burial was celebrated on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Holy Name Cathedral. Immediately following the Mass, a burial service took place at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois where he was buried in the George family plot per his wishes. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, a protégé and friend of Cardinal George, and formerly the Bishop of Joliet in Joliet, Illinois, gave the homily, at George's request, during his funeral. Archbishop Roger Schweitz, O.M.I., of Anchorage, led the rites at the end of the mass (he is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, George's order, and served as one of George's two principal co-consecrators at his episcopal ordination as Yakima's Bishop). Nine cardinals, the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, and over fifty bishops (not counting Archbishop Cupich and the Auxiliary Bishops of Chicago) concelebrated the mass.
On April 25, 2015, a memorial mass at his titular church, San Bartolomeo all'Isola, in Rome, was held, with Fr. Andrew Liaugminas, an archdiocesan priest ordained by George in 2010 studying in Rome, arranged the mass and was homilist, with Cardinal Bernard Law presiding, joined by cardinals James Michael Harvey, George Pell, and J. Francis Stafford.
A "Month's Mind Mass" celebrating the one-month anniversary of his death was celebrated on Sunday, May 17, 2015, at 5:15 PM, with Holy Name Cathedral's rector, Dan Mayall, as principal celebrant and homilist.
George's third and final book, A Godly Humanism a collection of personal reflections on the faith and spirituality, which he worked on until about a week before his death (he talked about it the night before he died), was released by the Catholic University of America Press in June 2015.
Possible cause for canonization
George, though he did not like the spotlight, was widely admired by area Catholics for his personal holiness, his orthodoxy, and his intellectual gifts. Having died in April 2015, without a waiver from the Holy See (usually given to martyrs or other very esteemed individuals), the earliest the Archdiocese could open his cause is 2020. There has been a formal petition presented to his successor, Cardinal Cupich, to allow the gathering of petitions, of opinions, and of preliminary information. If his cause is launched in 2020, and nothing that would stand in the way is found by the Archdiocese as it gathers documents, and the Vatican approves, he could be given the first title, 'Servant of God'.
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- "President of U.S. Bishops Says Holocaust Denial 'Deeply Offensive and Utterly False'". PR Newswire. February 3, 2009. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
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- Cardinal George Fanclub – news coverage, commentary & resources
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- George's catholic-pages bio
|Catholic Church titles|
William S. Skylstad
| Bishop of Yakima
Carlos Arthur Sevilla
| Archbishop of Portland
John George Vlazny
| Archbishop of Chicago
Blase J. Cupich
Mario Revollo Bravo
| Cardinal-Priest of San Bartolomeo all’Isola|
William S. Skylstad
| President of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Timothy M. Dolan