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Cardinal celebrates what may be ‘last Easter’ leading Chicago flock

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Updated: May 22, 2014 6:34AM

On what may have been his last Easter Sunday as the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George alluded to his long struggle with cancer while reflecting on death, salvation and how all Catholics could benefit from learning to just let go.

“It might be the last Easter in which I’m the archbishop of Chicago. I don’t know if it will be the last Easter in which I’m on the face of the earth,” George, 77, said after the 11 a.m. Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, which drew lines around the block.

The cardinal, who is undergoing chemotherapy for this third bout with cancer, has said previously that the disease will eventually kill him. Recently, he urged the church to start searching for his replacement.

During the homily, George reflected on the sometimes unpleasant surprises in life — “complicated diagnoses” included.

Rather than wring hands over the unchangeable, he urged Catholics to refocus on “genuine self-sacrifice for others.”

“We remain in prisons of our own making,” George said. “We are not in control of our lives and our world.”

Referring to Pope Francis — who has made income inequality and service to the poor a cornerstone of his papacy — George said that giving up “the bonds of self-interest” is the only way to become as “free” as the “fishing boats” owned by the original disciples.

After Mass, Catholics from far and wide reflected on the cardinal’s legacy.

“I may not have agreed with ever step, every action, every word. But he did the best that he could,” said Lorie Pedelty, of Chicago.

Mary Chen, 50, of Jefferson City, Mo., said Catholics could draw inspiration from George’s health struggles.

“In his illness and in his suffering he has an ability to inspire people. There’s a new role for him to play,” Chen said. “He shows that you live out faith over a lifetime.”

Asked about his health, George said that despite the chemotherapy treatments, he feels “good off and on these days.”

But, he added, his own challenges remain small compared with unrest in the Ukraine and Syria, and the continued effect a bad economy has on the poor across the U.S.

“Nothing is ever without hope, no matter what the situation is,” George said. “But you have to work that out in this life, day by day. It’s a moving experience to be reminded of that, especially on Easter Sunday.”


Twitter: @brianslodysko

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