CHICAGO –– For the second time in his 75 years, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago is facing the cross of cancer.
On Aug. 17, the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement announcing that two days earlier, Cardinal George underwent a procedure at Loyola Medical Center during which doctors found cancerous cells in his kidney and on the liver.
“Today he met with his doctors who reviewed with him test results which showed there were cancerous cells in the kidney and in a nodule, which was removed from the liver,” the statement said. “His doctors will work with the cardinal to plan a course of treatment.”
In an Aug. 20 statement, the archdiocese said the cardinal rested at home over the weekend and was “actively engaged” in several administrative duties. It said in the coming week he would receive additional medical tests, participate in a retreat at Mundelein Seminary with bishops from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana and “maintain his previously scheduled public commitments.”
“After the cardinal meets with his doctors regarding a plan for a course of treatment, further information about his upcoming public schedule will be announced,” the statement said. “Until further information is available, Cardinal George has asked for continued prayers for all affected by cancer and the doctors and medical staff that work with patients and their families, as well as for himself.”
The archdiocese will continue to provide updates about the cardinal on its website, www.archchicago.org. People also can leave greetings for him at the site as well.
On July 27, 2006, when he was 69, the cardinal underwent a five-hour operation at Loyola University Medical Center to remove his bladder, prostate gland and sections of his ureters — the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
He had a successful recovery from that surgery and made his first public appearance after surgery Sept. 26 at the launch of Katolik, the only Polish-language diocesan newspaper in the United States.
The cardinal has often been quoted saying one of his goals was to live to see retirement since all of the other Chicago bishops died in office. When he turned 75 in January, Cardinal George submitted his retirement letter to Pope Benedict XVI, as all bishops are required to do under canon law.
The pope doesn’t have to accept the retirement of a bishop right away and since cardinals serve the church until they are 80, he often doesn’t.
Catholics throughout the archdiocese prayed for his recovery during Masses the weekend of Aug. 18-19 and continue to do so.
“Cardinal George has been a champion of this archdiocese for so long that it’s hard to ever imagine Chicago without him, but this is a strong reminder that he’s human too and really needs our prayers,” said Jeff Eschbach, a parishioner at Holy Name Cathedral.
“I’ve heard him speak in person a few times over the years, and he always remembered to pray for those of us in need. It’s certainly a good time for us to return the favor and pray for his speedy recovery,” he said.
Lauretta Froelich attends St. Luke Parish in River Forest and says she is praying for Cardinal George’s healing.
“I was sorrowful at first to think that our beloved cardinal must suffer more than he has already in his life,” she told the Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper. “I am confident with the help of God’s grace and the outstanding doctor’s at Loyola that he will be healed, for nothing is impossible with God.”
The archdiocese has received well wishes for the cardinal from people around the country.
Cardinal George has headed the Chicago Archdiocese since 1997. He was made a cardinal a year later.
He was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010.
A native of Chicago, Cardinal George grew up in St. Pascal Parish on the city’s North Side. He is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and was ordained a priest in 1963. He has doctorates in philosophy and theology, is fluent in Spanish, French and Italian, and knows some German.
He was his order’s vicar general in Rome from 1974 to 1986. He was the bishop of Yakima, Wash., from 1990 to 1996, when he was named archbishop of Portland, Ore. About a year later, he was appointed to the Chicago archdiocese, succeeding Cardinal Joseph Bernardin who died in 1996 of pancreatic cancer at age 68.
Duriga is editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese.