‘You Are My Legacy,’ Cardinal George Tells Chicago at Final Mass as Archbishop

The 77-year-old cardinal retires on Nov.18 as he passes care of the archdiocese to Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich.

(photo: CNA/Lauren Cater)

CHICAGO — Cardinal Francis George celebrated his final public Mass as archbishop of Chicago on Sunday, thanking the people of the Windy City for being God’s “gift” to him.

“Every priest and bishop is given the gift of the people that he is called to care for and to love in Christ’s name,” Cardinal George said in his Nov. 16 homily, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“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 others?' In short, you are my legacy,” he told the congregation at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

The 77-year-old Cardinal George has headed the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1997. He submitted his resignation two years ago, upon reaching 75 years of age, as is required by canon law. He is suffering from cancer for the third time and uses crutches to help him walk.

During his homily, the cardinal reflected on the different views that people would likely have of his ministry. “Some of them I might appreciate, and some not,” he said.

But he said the questions he asks himself are: “With what have I been entrusted? And what have I done with this gift?”

He acknowledged that, at times, he had been “too fearful to speak, to act, to love generously,” but also that he has helped people “better able to know and live their faith, able to worship God in spirit and in truth, able to give themselves to the salvation of others.”

Cardinal George said there are “a lot of holy people” in the counties of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “I meet them every week. I’ve met them for years. And you are among them.”

The cardinal said his successor, Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich, is “very pleased with what he will see here.” The 65-year-old, who has headed the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., will be installed as archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday.

On Friday Cardinal George celebrated an annual memorial Mass for the archdiocese’s clergy who have died in the last year. He remembered his own predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

On Monday evening, Cardinal George was scheduled to preside at Holy Name Cathedral for a Liturgy of the Word with a Rite of Reception for Archbishop-designate Cupich. The archbishop-designate will greet representatives of Chicago civic life, other religious leaders and officials of the archdiocese.

Archbishop-designate Cupich will deliver a homily at the service and receive the archdiocesan stole.