Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George received everything good from God and these gifts must now be passed on by those who mourn him, said the homilist at his funeral on Thursday. “The cardinal’s faith was simple, direct, without pretense or embarrassment. Spontaneous, bold, profound and even childlike,” Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle said in his homily at the cardinal’s Funeral Mass. “He was so utterly a Christian, so utterly a priest, that no circumstance would seem inappropriate to give witness to Christ. How could he not give witness to Christ everywhere?” Cardinal George was the first Chicago native to become the city’s archbishop, and the first Archbishop of Chicago to retire from office. He passed away April 17 at the age of 78, after fighting cancer for several years. Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago was main celebrant for the April 23 memorial Mass at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Nine cardinals and more than 50 bishops, including apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Vigano, concelebrated the Mass. Archbishop Sartain praised Cardinal George’s “profound interior life” that was motivated by “hope in the Lord.” He said the cardinal lived “a life of faith, conviction and courage.” The archbishop paraphrased one of the cardinal’s sayings: “The only thing we take with us when we die is what we have given away. The only things that endure are our relationships with God and with each other.” Cardinal George had “a soul devoted to prayer, a brilliant mind in love with God,” Archbishop Sartain continued. “Because he gave these things, and more, away, he took them with him to meet the Lord last week.” Cardinal George was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, for whom he served as a superior. He was a past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was a deeply respected advisor and commentator on Catholicism in the United States. He worked to implement the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis and played a leading role in religious freedom advocacy in response to Obama administration rules that would require Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for drugs and procedures that violate Catholic belief. He served as Bishop of Yakima, Washington, and Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, before becoming Chicago’s archbishop in 1998. “No one could ever dispute the extraordinary intellectual gifts God gave Francis George. Nor could one dispute the enthusiasm with which he put these gifts to use,” Archbishop Sartain continued. “When one is joined to Christ, the savior of the world, the beauty and the mystery of the world become the object of one’s love.” The Seattle archbishop cited one of Cardinal George’s final homilies, in which the cardinal said “revealed truth and self-sacrificing love are more real, more trustworthy, than anything else.” While Cardinal George was uncomfortable with questions about his legacy, Archbishop Sartain explained, he suggested “you and I are his legacy, because what he gave was not his at all, but the living Christ, the truth, the life.” “What Francis George had received, he handed on to us,” Archbishop Sartain concluded. “So has it ever been in the Church. And so shall it ever be. Now, through you, and me.” Archbishop Cupich thanked Cardinal George’s friends and family at the close of the Mass, as well as all who came to mourn a “great leader.” He asked Archbishop Vigano to convey to Pope Francis the archdiocese’s “deep gratitude” for his message upon the cardinal’s death. The cardinal will be interred at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Ill. next to his parents’ graves.
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