Vatican appointment could impact Chicago

July 19, 2011 4:32:54 PM PDT
Chicago Archbishop Francis Cardinal George is not retiring yet, but when he does retire, a Vatican personnel move made Tuesday could have a big impact on who replaces him.

When any pope shuffles the deck of cardinals, new faces usually move up, and so it was the case Tuesday with the archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput , being appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to take over in Philadelphia.

With Archbishop Chaput going to Philadelphia, that means he won't be coming to Chicago.

Under Vatican rules, Cardinal George will submit his resignation to the pope when he turns 75 years old this coming January.

Although there are several American bishops considered qualified to move up to lead Chicago's 2.3 million Roman Catholics, Chaput was touted this week in some Italian newspapers as the leading contender to replace Cardinal George.

But, Tuesday in Philadelphia, Chaput took over for Cardinal Justin Rigali, who has been beleaguered by allegations that he mishandled priest sex abuse cases.

"Many of you will ask me this question, I will answer it in advance: I do not know why the Holy Father sent me here," said Archbishop Chaput.

"If I have offended anyone in any way I am deeply sorry. I apologize for any weakness on my part in representing Christ in the Church worthily and effectively," said Cardinal Rigali.

Rigali submitted his resignation to the Vatican more than a year ago when he turned 75, but as is traditionally the case with cardinals, the pope did not act quickly on it.

In Rigali's case, a Philadelphia grand jury investigation of sex abuse cases may actually have accelerated the pope's acceptance of his resignation.

A Chicago church spokesperson says that when Cardinal George submits his resignation on January 16, it would be highly unlikely that he would actually retire at that time. The cardinal's resignation may not be accepted by the pope for even a few years, according to his spokesperson.

Regardless, count on Cardinal George at least being in place through next April 27. That is the date of the annual American cardinal's dinner , sponsored by Catholic University of America, and next year it will be held in Chicago.

The inside favorites to replace Cardinal George are Bishop Gustavo of San Antonio who was previously assigned in Chicago, and Bishop Sartain of Seattle who was just promoted from Joliet.

Cardinal George's health and stamina may dictate his actual retirement date. He has survived childhood polio, bladder cancer and a bad fall the past few years but is said to be in excellent health right now.

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