Cardinal Francis George, R.I.P. (UPDATED)

Cardinal Francis George, who served as archbishop of Chicago for nearly two decades before retiring in November, died this morning after a years-long struggle with cancer. He was seventy-eight. Read the Chicago Tribune obituary here. The archdiocese's memorial page hereLive coverage here. Archbishop Blase Cupich delivered the following remarks this afternoon:

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

I'll update this post throughout the afternoon.

In his final homily as archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal George told a completely full Holy Name Cathedral, "You are my legacy."

The cardinal delivered the homily while sitting. He preached on the gospel reading, the Parable of the Talents, in which the master--or, as George referred to him, the king--gives three servants differing amounts of money before he leaves them. After a long absence, he asks the servants for an account of their investments. Two of them chose wisely and doubled the money. But the third, afraid of failing and angering his master, buried his talent. He is rebuked by the master as a "wicked, lazy servant."

The question posed by this reading, George explained, is quite simple: "Can God trust us?" God has given us great gifts, the cardinal continued. Will we be hard-working or lazy? Will we allow fear to destroy love? "At some point, he will ask us what have we done with these gifts.... What will you tell God when he asks what you have done with his gifts?"

A version of that question has been asked of him often as he approaches the end of his seventeen-year tenure as archbishop of Chicago, George said. What will be your legacy? "Every priest and bishop is given the gift of people he is called to care for and to love in Christ's name." The cardinal continued: "At some point Christ will question me: What have you done with my people? Are they holier because of your ministry? Are they more generous, more loving toward one another? In short, you are my legacy."

Full video of the homily:

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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