His Eminence, Francis Eugene George, O.M.I.,
Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago
1937 - 2015
His Eminence Francis Eugene Cardinal George, O.M.I., eighth Archbishop of Chicago, was born in Chicago to Francis J. and Julia R. McCarthy George on January 16, 1937. He was the first native Chicagoan to serve as Archbishop of Chicago and the first Cardinal to retire as Archbishop of Chicago. Cardinal George passed away on Friday, April 17, 2015, at the Residence.
In accordance with Church law, Cardinal George submitted his letter of resignation as Archbishop of Chicago to Pope Benedict XVI on January 16, 2012, which was his 75th birthday. Pope Francis named Most Rev. Blase J. Cupich as Cardinal George’s successor and the ninth Archbishop of Chicago on September 20, 2014.
After attending St. Pascal Grade School on Chicago’s northwest side and St. Henry Preparatory Seminary in Belleville, Illinois, he entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on August 14, 1957.
He studied theology at the University of Ottawa, Canada, and was ordained a priest by Most Rev. Raymond Hillinger on December 21, 1963, at St. Pascal Church.
Cardinal George earned a master’s degree in philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1965 and a doctorate in American philosophy at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1970 and, in 1971, a master’s degree in theology from the University of Ottawa in Canada. During those years, he also taught philosophy at the Oblate Seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi from 1964 until 1967, Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1968 and at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska from 1969 until 1973.
From 1973 until 1974 he was Provincial Superior of the Midwestern Province for the Oblates, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was then elected Vicar General of the Oblates and served in Rome from 1974 until 1986.
He returned to the United States and became coordinator of the Circle of Fellows for the Cambridge Center for the Study of Faith and Culture in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1987 until 1990. During that time, he obtained a Doctorate of Sacred Theology in ecclesiology from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy, in 1988.
Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Yakima on July 10, 1990. He was ordained and installed as the fifth bishop of Yakima on September 21, 1990, in Holy Family Church, Yakima.
He served there for five and a half years before being appointed Archbishop of Portland in Oregon by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 1996. He was installed on May 27, 1996 as the ninth Archbishop of Portland in St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland.
Less than a year later, on April 8, 1997, Pope John Paul II named him the eighth Archbishop of Chicago, to the See left vacant by the death of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin on November 14, 1996. His installation by the Most Rev. Agostino Cacciavillan, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, took place at Holy Name Cathedral on May 7, 1997.
On January 18, 1998, Pope John Paul II announced Archbishop George’s elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals. At the Consistory of February 21, 1998, Cardinal George was assigned San Bartolomeo all’Isola in Rome, as his titular church. He was also appointed a member of the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum.” In 1999, Pope John Paul II appointed Cardinal George to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. In 2001, the Pope appointed him to the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and in 2004, to the Pontifical Council for Culture. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal George to the Pontifical Council for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See.
He was a papal appointee to the 1994 World Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life and a delegate, and one of two special secretaries at the Synod of Bishops for America in 1997. He was a delegate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the 2001 World Synod of Bishops and was also elected to the Council for the World Synod of Bishops in 2001. He served as a delegate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for the 2008 World Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
He was a member of the USCCB Committees on Divine Worship and Evangelization and Catechesis and a consultant to the USCCB Committees on Doctrine and Pro-Life Activities, and the ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. He was President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010, and Vice-President of the USCCB from 2004 to 2007. He also served on USCCB Committees on Doctrine, on Latin America, on Missions, on Religious Life and Ministry, the American Board of Catholic Missions and on World Missions; on the ad hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism and the Subcommittee on Campus Ministry.
He was chair of the USCCB Commission for Bishops and Scholars from 1992 to 1994, and of the USCCB Committee on Liturgy from 2001 until 2004, and a consultant to the USCCB Committees on Evangelization from 1991 to 1993, Hispanic Affairs from 1994 to 1997, Science and Values from 1994 to 1997, African American Catholics from 1999 to 2002, and the Subcommittee on Lay Ministry from 2003 until 2010. He was the USCCB Representative to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy from 1997 to 2006.
He served as the Chancellor of the Catholic Church Extension Society and the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic University of America since 1993, a Trustee of the Papal Foundation since 1997, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia since 1994 and a member of the Board of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception since 1997. Since 2011, he had been the Episcopal Advisor for the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology in St. Louis, and since 2003, Episcopal Moderator for the Ministry of Transportation Chaplains. He also served as Episcopal Liaison to the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States from 2011 to 2013, Episcopal Advisor to the Cursillo Movement, Region XII, from 1990 to 1997 and as Episcopal Liaison to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association Executive Board from 1998 until 2003.
From 1990 to 2008, he was Episcopal Moderator and member of the board of the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, now known as the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. He brought personal experience to his role after a five-month bout with polio at age 13 left him with permanent damage to his legs.
Cardinal George was Conventual Chaplain ad honorem of the Federal Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Grand Prior of the North Central Lieutenancy of the United States for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and a member of the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Awards Advisory Board and the Chicago Bible Society Advisory Board. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Oblate Media, Belleville, Illinois, from 1988 to 1997.
As Archbishop of Chicago, he issued two pastoral letters: on evangelization, “Becoming an Evangelizing People,” (November 21, 1997) and on racism, “Dwell in My Love” (April 4, 2001). His book, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, was published in October 2009, by The Crossroad Publishing Company. It is a collection of essays exploring our relationship with God, the responsibility of communion and the transformation of culture. His most recent book, God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, was published in May 2011, by Doubleday Religion. In this collection of essays, he reflected on the significance of religious faith in the public sphere and underscored the unique contributions of religion to the common good.
He was a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the American Society of Missiologists and the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs. In addition to English, he spoke French, Italian, Spanish and some German.
Updated April 18, 2015