Pope resignation catches Cardinal George off guard

February 11, 2013 (CHICAGO)

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George had just met with the pope on Thursday.

"On a personal note, I saw him last Thursday. I was in Rome for a meeting and he came at the end of that meeting to greet us and so we just had one or two minutes with him, each one of the cardinals who was present. And right away he asked how my health was. And he said he was praying for me, and I regret now that I didn't have the preface of mind to say, "How is your health?' But he looked like a man of his age, but he didn't give any indication that he wasn't able to continue," Cardinal George said.

Because George is under the age of 80, he will participate in the conclave to select the next pontiff. It isn't clear when he will leave for Rome, but the conclave is expected to select the next pope in March.

Cardinal George has a standing letter of resignation before the Pope Benedict XVI. That letter was sent to the pope more than a year ago. There is no particular urgency for the pope to act on George's resignation letter before he retires.

George himself has said that while he is looking forward to eventually retiring, his expectation is that he will remain Chicago's archbishop for at least the next two years, health permitting.

Most recently, George had a full battery of tests showing no sign of the cancer for which he went through a series of chemotherapy treatments.

Statement by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, on the announced resignation of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI has, in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration. That same resoluteness of purpose speaks in his statement announcing his resignation from the Chair of Peter.

He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God's people with all his heart. He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month.

With the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.

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