Cardinal Francis George, who retired as archbishop of Chicago in 2014, died April 17 after a long battle with cancer. He is pictured in a 2013 photo. CNS photo/Karen Callaway

Cardinal George stayed true to Church’s mission

  • April 23, 2015

Cardinal Francis George, recently retired archbishop of Chicago, died in his bed at home, as he said he would. In his latter years, the intellectual leader of the Catholic Church in the United States was famous for his bleak view of the future of religious liberty in America.

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square,” he once told a group of Chicago priests. “And 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.”

Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago from 1997, was massively influential. At a time of intense public scandal, he was one of the architects of the “zero tolerance” policy on priestly sexual abuse that is now being implemented as the norm for the Church universal. Along with Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, George steered through the new English translation of the Holy Mass, improving the daily worship of Catholics around the globe. As one of the clearest thinkers — and most direct speakers — in the American hierarchy, he identified the rising intolerance of secular fundamentalism as a clear and present danger to the Church’s mission.

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