Cardinal George awarded Chicago's highest honor

Ravi Baichwal Image
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Cardinal George awarded Chicago?s highest honor
Representatives from across the city highlighted the depth of Cardinal George's faith and compassion on Wednesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Francis Cardinal George was the focus of Wednesday's city council meeting, where he gave the invocation for the lawmakers to do their work and then he was given the city's highest honor.

The Cardinal, who is undergoing cancer treatment, held court at the front of the council chambers Wednesday as a proclamation in his honor was presented. And while there was pressing political business, the city's first home-grown cardinal found time to show retirement might be softening him a little bit.

"Unfortunately because of Archbishop Cupich, I am going to probably have to identify with the homeless in a way I didn't quite anticipate," George joked.

Throughout the morning session the cardinal greeted well-wishers as he sat below the mayor's dais. Ald. Ed Burke, who represents the 14th Ward, began the salutes by noting that the Cardinal's 17-year tenure made this city stand out on the global stage.

"Cardinal George has upheld Chicago's rich history and legacy of Catholicism," Ward Burke said.

Many noted the Cardinal was first and foremost still a priest.

"We have been to so many things together that you was trying to convert me to Catholic at one time," said 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett. "I want to thank you for your stance helping the needy."

Representatives from across the city highlighted the depth of his faith and compassion.

In true South Side fashion, on behalf of the parishes of Christ the King, St. Barnabus, St. John Fisher, St. Cajetan, Queen of Martyrs, and St. Christina, wish you all the best. God bless you, sir," said 19th Ward Ald. Matt O'Shea.

The mayor then announced the city's award -- the Chicago Medal of Merit -- a first to be given out in 15 years. The city is planting a red maple in the park across from his home.

"On behalf of the city of Chicago I want to say you will always be Francis our neighbor, thank you on behalf of a grateful city," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Heading out, George seemed genuinely moved.

"They spoke not only for themselves but also for people that they know and they serve in their wards. It means a lot more than simply an act of city council so I am very grateful, extremely grateful," George said.

As far as his health goes, George said he's hoping for good news at the end of the month, when results from scans will indicate how well his cancer treatment is working.