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Sneed: Cardinal George may preside over his last Easter Mass on Sunday

Cardinal Francis George talks about his 50-year career Catholic Church during an interview his residence Chicago Dec. 12 2013.

Cardinal Francis George talks about his 50-year career in the Catholic Church during an interview at his residence in Chicago on Dec. 12, 2013. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 19, 2014 2:24PM



The cardinal’s story . . .

This Sunday, Cardinal Francis George will preside over what could be his last Easter Mass at Holy Name Cathedral as a sitting archbishop.

Battling cancer and awaiting a successor, George is now nearing the end of his tenure presiding over the Chicago archdiocese’s 2.2 million Catholics.

Gone are his favorite blueberries and ice cream and the little bit of sugar that now contravenes his cancer diet.

Sneed is told his beloved sister, Margaret Cain, is now staying at the cardinal’s residence to be with him this Easter.

“It’s a tough time for him, but he is a remarkable man,” said Colleen Dolan, the cardinal’s spokesperson.

“He has dealt with a lifetime of health challenges (including polio), he has always risen to the occasion and he expects to again,” she said. “He wants to live.”

George’s third and final dose of chemotherapy for his third bout of cancer is Monday, the day after Easter.

“Then we’ll see what comes next,” said Dolan.

Sneed is told the cardinal’s request a week ago that the Papal Nuncio begin his replacement process was based on more than just his deteriorating health.

George, who replaced Cardinal Joseph Bernardin five months after his death, regrets missing the opportunity to seek Bernardin’s opinion and “ask questions,” said Dolan. “He’d like to give his replacement that opportunity.”

Although described as “positive, but tired,” the cardinal is also dealing with the private sadness of not being able to attend the canonization this month of two popes; especially Pope John Paul II, who changed his life, a source said.

“It’s heartbreaking, really,” said Dolan.

“It’s almost unthinkable he will not be able to attend the canonization of Pope John Paul II, who made him a bishop, an archbishop and a cardinal — and [George] always felt he was in the presence of prayer when he was with him,” she added.

It isn’t the first time George was prevented from going to Rome due to his health. During the 2007 Easter season, he slipped in some holy water that had fallen on a marble church floor and broke his femur while blessing Easter baskets.

The injury forced him to miss a pilgrimage to Rome with a group of people to celebrate his 10th year as cardinal.

In any event, the cardinal’s flock will be praying for him on Easter Sunday.

“We are hoping the chemo will contain the tumor and extend the cardinal’s life,” said a source.

But barring his health, George’s tenure as archbishop of Chicago will end when his replacement is announced.

Tech tip . . .

Sneed hears Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will name Simona Rollinson, president of Follett Software, as the county’s new chief information officer . . . replacing former CIO Lydia Murray, who resigned mysteriously last December after being lauded at a City Club luncheon by Preckwinkle for her “good work.”

The Chelsea pregnancy . . .

News former first daughter Chelsea Clinton is pregnant was a reminder of what a top politico source told Sneed last October: “If you were betting on whether Hillary would run, the odds are it might be a good bet,” the source said.

“But if she becomes a grandmother, I have a gut feeling Hillary won’t run. There is nothing she wants more than a grandchild.”

Sneedlings . . .

Friday’s birthdays: James Woods, 67; Rick Moranis, 61, and Conan O’Brien, 51.



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