Francis Cardinal George makes first appearance since kidney cancer announcement

Cardinal Francis George is speaking out about his new battle with cancer and keeping up his busy schedule with appearances Saturday night and earlier in the day.
March 7, 2014 10:00:00 PM PST
Cardinal Francis George is speaking out about his new battle with cancer and keeping up his busy schedule with appearances Saturday night and earlier in the day.

The cardinal revealed just Friday that he's getting chemotherapy and Saturday night he attended an event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Cardinal George said that he underwent his most recent chemotherapy treatment on Wednesday, but he's already back to a full schedule Saturday, capped off by a big fundraising event at the Hyatt.

He may be battling cancer, but Cardinal George seems to be making every effort to carry out his duties as normally as possible, including posing for pictures on his way into a black tie benefit Saturday night.

"I feel a little bit light-headed because this is the moment in the chemo regime when you feel light-headed, so a little unsteady on my feet at the best of times and more unsteady now. But other than that, I feel pretty good," he said.

He's just a few days removed from the most recent, more aggressive chemotherapy treatment since doctors discovered new cancer cells in his kidney. But he's in good spirits, grateful for the support of the Chicago Catholic community and keeping his sense of humor.

Saturday night's fundraiser for Presence Health, the largest Catholic health care provider in the state, features a star-studded roster, including chairman Mike Ditka, who spoke before the cardinal gave the blessing.

"Mike Ditka stole my thunder with all those blessings he was giving as he started talking, so this will be short, you've already been blessed," Cardinal George said.

The audience, well aware of the cardinal's condition, gives him a standing ovation and then after he blesses the meal, they join together to bless him.

Earlier, the cardinal led a confirmation liturgy at a Lincoln Park Church, where he sat for the sermon, joking that he felt a little unsteady and didn't want to draw attention away from the service by falling. Many observers have said they admire the way the cardinal is facing his illness with honesty and humor.

"The goal of our life is to live with the Lord here and forever," he said. "I look to that with some anticipation. I don't look forward to the pain of dying, but that's part of it."

The cardinal says he intends to keep his schedule as much as possible, though he will have to limit his interactions during certain times when his immunities are low because of the treatments.

"I don't have any retirement plans until the Holy Father tells me he's accepted my resignation and that's not done," he said.

Cardinal George said he is not yet spoken to Pope Francis, but he does plan to travel to Rome for the canonization ceremony of Pope John Paul II later this spring.


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