Cardinal George

Bishops remember cardinal as mentor, brother

By Chicago Catholic
Thursday, April 23, 2015

The first bishop Cardinal George ordained was Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, who returned to the Archdiocese of Chicago as an auxiliary bishop in 1998. Like Cardinal George, he was raised in Chicago but left the archdiocese to become a priest, having been ordained by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Bishop Perry acknowledged that Cardinal George was well-known for his intellectual prowess, but said there was far more to him than that.

“I have appreciated his clarity with the many issues that dogged the civil and ecclesial spheres, a clarity that cuts through the confusion and the murkiness of the debate about many things,” Bishop Perry said. “When he speaks, people listen, the intellectual and the ignorant, even those who cannot sympathize with his clarity of thought. It might have to do with his academic and philosophical background — a discipline that suggests a continuing rational thought undergirding human experience if not things we should not forsake while conversing or debating about this or that.

“Yet, I’ve seen another side of the cardinal, and that is a tender pastor with his flock. I recall some years back joining the cardinal visiting one of the housing project towers on the Southeast Side before they were torn down. We were with a group of people studying the situation of lack of housing and poverty. We met up with a woman and her children in one of the apartments. She described her abject circumstances. Cardinal George gave her his undivided attention and then reached out and hugged her and offered her some consoling words that I would wager she has not forgotten to this day. We are all complex individuals of one sort or another. But in the cardinal I have always appreciated his blend of intellectual prowess with superb pastoral abilities.”

Auxiliary Bishop Francis Kane had been a priest for nearly 34 years when he was consecrated in a Mass that included episcopal ordinations of Archbishop Garcia-Siller and Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki, both of whom also served as auxiliary bishops in Chicago.

“He was the one who nominated me to be a bishop,” Bishop Kane said. “It’s had a great impact on my life and ministry. He’s always been a great example of a bishop in the church today. He cares about people, and he cares about the church. Both of those are extremely important.”

Bishop Kane is the episcopal vicar for Vicariate II and served as vicar general from July 2013 until Jan. 1 of this year, but he never expected to be made a bishop at all, he said.

“I was very happy as a pastor,” Bishop Kane said. “I thought that I was too old to become a bishop, if we were going to be making bishops. I was almost 60. He was very supportive. He said this will not be something for yourself; it’s for the church. He said it’s a rewarding ministry, being a bishop.”

Bishop Kane said he got to see the impact Cardinal George had in Chicago and on larger stages. “I think he certainly had an enormous impact on Chicago,” Bishop Kane said. “He always said he was very grateful to Cardinal Bernardin, because Cardinal Bernardin had formed a strategic plan before he arrived and that guided Cardinal George’s ministry. He’s had enormous impact on how seminarians are formed to become priests, on religious education, on liturgy.

“Clearly, with his leadership on the bishops’ conference, he had an enormous impact. He was also one who worked on the translation of the Roman Missal, and he was deeply involved with some of the curial offices. He had a great impact on the (Vatican) finances; they had placed him in one of the curial offices that dealt with that.”

Bishop Alberto Rojas has the distinction of being the only man Cardinal George ordained both a priest and a bishop. He was ordained a priest in 1997, the first year the cardinal was in Chicago, and a bishop in 2011.

“His Eminence Cardinal Francis George was a good shepherd, a spiritual father, a special teacher and a big brother to me,” Bishop Rojas said in reflection he wrote in Spanish. “I feel sad knowing that he is no longer with us physically. I would have liked to see him resting for a few years in retirement as he wanted to read books that he did not have time to read. … When I went to see him in the hospital he told me he was about to finish writing a book; I hope we will all be able to read it soon.”

Bishop Rojas said he has confidence that the cardinal still is praying for his people. “Although his death has filled me with much sadness, I am comforted to know and believe that just as Christ died and rose again, also he will rise again; that he is resting in the peace of the Risen Christ, and will be praying for all of us,” he wrote. “Undoubtedly, Cardinal George was a man of peace, super intelligent and at the same time very simple, very spiritual and very holy; a man with the heart of a good shepherd.”

“It is with personal sadness that I heard of the passing of my dear friend and mentor, Francis Cardinal George. A man who I affectionately called ‘mi Padre.’ His zeal for the Gospel and his passion for the new evangelization will live in the hearts of all he touched,” said San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.

“Cardinal George’s life was an example of humble, but inspired leadership to the church and his long struggle with cancer was an example of faith and courage in the face of long suffering. I join the faithful of Chicago who are mourning his loss, but I also celebrate his glorious welcome into eternal life, and the loving embrace of the Father. Cardinal George will always have a special place in my heart and I am thankful for the fraternal bond of friendship that we forged in this life.

“In this Easter season, let us celebrate the gift of the resurrection in which our hope for eternal life, softens our sorrow. May the soul of Cardinal George, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”

“It was my privilege to work closely with Cardinal Francis George as his chancellor, as pastor of a parish and as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago,’ Bishop Thomas Paprocki said. “He was also my metropolitan archbishop in the Province of Chicago and as such installed me as bishop of Springfield-in-Illinois in 2010. Cardinal George has made a great impact by providing a wonderful example of ecclesial leadership characterized by availability to the people, deep devotion to our Catholic faith and scholarly appreciation for the teachings of the church.”

“Cardinal George has played a unique role in the life of the church in the United States and the world,” Bishop David Malloy said. “The gifts of his faith, his intellect, his strong leadership and vast experience, combined with his joy and love for the church, have served as an inspiration and a witness throughout his priesthood. ... Cardinal George combined greatness with simplicity in all he did and I pray he may now be enjoying the fullness of eternal life in the kingdom of Christ to whom he dedicated himself so fully.”

“It was with great sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cardinal Francis George, whom I have known and had the privilege of working with for over 25 years,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said. “As brother bishops, we had many opportunities to work together on a number of committees in service to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Over our many years of association, I appreciated Cardinal George’s many intellectual contributions to the conference, his pastoral concern for the faithful in his diocese, and his example of faith and courage. Particularly over the last couple of years as he fought his illness with great grace, he was an example of faith in the Lord. I offer my prayers and sympathy to Cardinal George’s family and friends and the many people whose lives he touched by his ministry over the years and ask the Lord to grant him eternal rest."

“While we have all realized for a while that it was near, the passing of Cardinal Francis George still comes as a jolt, and leaves us with a sense of emptiness and loss. I assure Archbishop (Blase J.) Cupich and the Catholic family of Chicago of our love, condolences and prayers here in New York. I will miss him as a pastor, friend and guide, and can only thank God for the gift that he was and will ever be.”


  • bishops
  • cardinal george
  • bishop alberto rojas
  • bishop joseph perry
  • timothy dolan
  • thomas prapocki
  • francis kane

Related Articles