Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, presented a lecture this evening at Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall entitled Lumen Gentium and Episcopal Governance. Father Romanus Cessario, O.P. gave the following introduction to His Eminence's talk:
His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George received the red hat from Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 1998. The same Pope assigned the Archbishop of Chicago the title of Saint Bartholomew-on-the-Island, an ancient Roman Church that houses the relics of the holy apostle. As its name suggests, the Cardinal’s titular church stands on an island in the middle of Rome’s Tiber River. I find a significance in the placement of Saint Bartholomew’s--its being neither on the left bank nor the right bank of the Eternal City. For Cardinal George has distinguished himself as a mediator among the competing forces of cultural and religious outlooks that dominate our horizon. The title of his most recent book captures the Cardinal’s approach: God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World; it was published in May 2011 by Doubleday Religion.
When he took over the governance of one of the largest dioceses in our country, Cardinal George displayed his profound, and I would add, characteristically Midwestern, sense of the human. His predecessor, whose first name was Joseph, had introduced himself, “Hello! I am Joseph, your brother.” When he first met the clergy and people of Chicago, Cardinal George said, “Good morning, I am Francis, your neighbor.” Neighbor indeed he is. Born on Chicago’s Northwest Side, Francis George joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a French society founded in the early nineteenth century by Saint Eugene de Mazenod (+1861). As Cardinal George himself once remarked to me, the Founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was accustomed to tell his ecclesiastical superiors, “Send my priests to the poorest and most desolate places in need of evangelization.” The Roman authorities knew a good deal when they saw one, and within a short time, the Oblates found themselves laboring in mission fields on every continent. They were among the first missionaries sent to preach to the Native Americans in what is now Alaska.
The challenges that Cardinal George’s religious family has faced throughout their illustrious history of making nations Catholic, he today faces under new guises: not so much to convert but to restore. We find a key to the Cardinal’s plan in the title of his doctoral dissertation, “Inculturation and communion.” It would take too long to list the Cardinal’s accomplishments as a missionary, a professor, an author and scholar, and as a Bishop of the Catholic Church. Suffice it to remark that today he continues to engage all of the above. Thankfully. We find ourselves living in period of the Church’s history that requires men of Cardinal George’s intelligence to help us all to discover how we should think about things, especially about the many challenges that face the Catholic Church in the United States.
So I would ask you to stand and to greet one of the truly eminent Churchmen of our period, His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago.