Cardinal George to undergo more chemo for kidney cancer

March 7, 2014 (CHICAGO)

The Cardinal's fight against cancer started eight years ago. In 2006, Cardinal George was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In 2012, the cancer returned, this time in his kidney and liver, forcing him to undergo 6 rounds of chemotherapy. Now, the Cardinal says the cancer is confined to his right kidney, and he expects to undergo chemo for two months.

The Cardinal did not comment on-camera Friday, but he wrote about his third battle with cancer in a recent column, saying that Lent finds him once again in poor health. In Catholic New World, he wrote: "While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death."

"I think we can be safe to say that although this cancer, based on what we know, is likely to take his life, this is not something that necessarily happens in weeks or months," said Dr. Walter Stadler, University of Chicago Medicine.

The Cardinal's new chemotherapy treatment will be shorter but the drugs will be more aggressive compared to the round in 2012.

"As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months," Cardinal George wrote. "While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death. Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life."

In December 2013, Cardinal George spoke with ABC7 about his battle with cancer.

"Oh, I wouldn't say it's clear. They don't say it's clear. There aren't any tumors found, but this kind of stuff lurks around and probably it's there, but we'll wait and see," said Cardinal George, in December 2013. "You know, some days I'm feeling pretty good and other days, you kind of drag yourself around."

In September 2011, Cardinal George sent a resignation letter to then Pope Benedict, as required on his 75th birthday. A Chicago Archdiocese official said that process has not begun, and his letter will "probably not be accepted until after he turns 78 (in January 2015) or later."

The cardinal's cancer treatment will not interfere with his plans to attend the canonization of Pope John Paul II.

"He is still planning to go to Rome in April," she said.

Chicago-area Catholics react to Cardinal's cancer battle

The news about the Cardinal's health comes during the season of Lent, a time when Christians atone for their sins but also reflect on the hardships of others. Many Chicago-area Catholics say they have the Cardinal in their thoughts.

At Holy Name Cathedral on Friday, there were prayers for Cardinal George.

"You've just got to have power and belief in faith that he'll come through, and he's a strong man. But I'm sorry to hear that," said Deirdre Carroll.

"I know he was supposed to do a 9:30 mass on Sunday, and he didn't make it, and we were wondering if there was something astray," said Don Uram.

Despite the Cardinal's battles with cancer in recent years and the submission of his required resignation letter when he turned 75 two years ago. A spokesperson for the archdiocese today said the process to choose his successor has not begun an effort that could take six months or more.

"It's been a year of transition with Pope Benedict leaving and Pope Francis coming in, and so I think a lot of things got delayed," said Prof. Bill Cavanuagh, DePaul University.

The Cardinal's successor will ultimately be chosen by Pope Francis after recommendations are made by the congregation for bishops in Rome and other high-level Catholic officials.

Last December, Cardinal George told Eyewitness News he will likely be consulted as well.

Cardinal George: "They will ask me who do you think should be the next archbishop of Chicago."
ABC7's Alan Krashesky: "You can't tell us who is on that list?"
Cardinal George: "No, I haven't thought it through myself yet. I have a few ideas, but. . ."

Among the names already being whispered are Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield and Spokane Bishop Blase Cupich.

All but Cupich once served in the Chicago area.

"There are always rumors about who are the likely candidates, but as they say, those who know aren't talking, and those who talk a lot don't really know. So it's hard to predict," said Cavanaugh.

The Cardinal has said in the past he would like his successor to be someone who is at ease with a lot of different people, an important quality, he says, for an archdiocese as diverse as this one.

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