Monday, January 16, 2012

Cardinal celebrates mass and birthday, before offering required resignation letter

(Chicago Tribune) With cake and song, parishioners at St. Linus Roman Catholic Church in Oak Lawn wished Cardinal Francis George a happy birthday Sunday, the day before Chicago's archbishop turns 75 and submits his mandatory letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI.

George does not expect the pope to accept that resignation for at least two years, a common practice for cardinals, who remain eligible to participate in papal elections until they turn 80.

In addition to the pro forma resignation letter required on his 75th birthday, George said he likely would write a more personal missive to the pope. But he declined to reveal details.

"I'm not going to rehearse my letter to the pope in this forum," he said in a Tribune interview last month. "The letter of resignation is simple. It's formula almost. 'Father, having achieved the age of 75, which according to the code is the age of relinquishing of pastoral authority, I hereby offer my letter of resignation as Archbishop of Chicago.' "

"You send another letter with that, saying what you think the situation is really like," he added with a laugh.

George also expects to have a one-on-one conversation with Pope Benedict in February when he travels to Rome with other Midwestern bishops for a regularly scheduled trip, called an ad limina visit, that every bishop is required to make to report on the condition of his diocese.

"That will be a topic of conversation I'll bring up," George said. "If we weren't going over in February, I don't know that I'd have a chance to talk to him."

Last week, George named a new chief operating officer for the archdiocese and announced other key changes to local governance, "so that the health of the archdiocese as it transitions to a new archbishop, whenever the Holy See makes that appointment, will be as strong as possible."

Sunday's service not only marked one of the last masses George would celebrate before he reaches retirement age, it also commemorated St. Linus Catholic School's receipt of a Blue Ribbon award from theU.S. Department of Education, a top honor for schools whose test scores are among the highest in the state.

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