The death of His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago, saddens me greatly. During his 17-year tenure as leader of the 2.3 million Catholics in Chicago, Cardinal George was a faithful member of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America in Washington. He served in that capacity during my entire term as president there.
He was incredibly practical and insightful.
His Eminence, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate religious congregation and an alumnus of CUA, was truly an intellectual giant among the hierarchy. I have only the fondest memories of many personal conversations and visits with him.
During my own recent illness, Cardinal George was among the first people to write me. One Sunday afternoon this past January, I answered the telephone only to be delighted to hear his voice again. I knew of his own suffering from cancer and drew great encouragement from his taking the time to think of me and to extend his own good wishes.
A victim of childhood polio, Cardinal George walked with a pronounced limp and wore special shoes. I'll never forget his thoughtful words: "Don't let your situation get you down, David. You will fall, as I often did .... just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward." Good advice from a wise man.
A great saint once said, "Given the choice between a smart bishop and a holy bishop, I'd choose a smart bishop. He can always become holy." In Francis Cardinal George, the Church had both. May he rest in peace.