Personally, I was not a fan of Cardinal George. I found him harsher than he needed to be, and resistant to the new style embodied by Pope Francis. But I admired the cardinal's fidelity to the tenets of his faith, and his scholarship, and tried to write an obituary that was fair and accentuated his good qualities.
The day after Cardinal Francis George stepped down as leader of Chicago’s 2.3 million Catholics was a Sunday and Eleanor Franczak, a parishioner at St. Michael’s Church in Orland Park, summed the cardinal’s tenure this way: “He was one of us. He wasn’t any better or worse, just a normal person.” It was an assessment that Cardinal George, who died Friday morning after a nine-year struggle with cancer, would have wholeheartedly endorsed. When he learned that Pope John Paul II had named him as the successor to Chicago’s popular Cardinal Bernardin, the unassuming priest asked in surprise, “Are you sure the Holy Father has considered all the options?” But that modesty concealed a man who was an accomplished scholar, a skilled writer, and an unyielding defender of the faith. Raised on the Northwest Side, Cardinal George, 78, was the city's eighth archbishop and the first priest born in the Chicago archdiocese who rose to lead it. Archbishop Blase Cupich, who was the bishop of Spokane, came to Chicago in September to assume the role as George's successor, while George's title became archbishop emeritus. At the time of his appointment, in April, 1997, George initially set an inclusive tone. "The bishop is to be the source of unity in any archdiocese," he said the day he was introduced to the city. "The faith isn't liberal or conservative." To continue reading, click here.