"I was quite overwhelmed, very surprised. . . My breath was taken away," Archbishop-Elect Cupich said of learning he'd been chose by Pope Francis. "I said, 'I've never said no to the church. Yes, I'll do it.'"
When asked how long it took for the appointment to set in, he said, "It's still sinking."
Chosen by Pope Francis, the Vatican made the official announcement earlier from Rome . Cupich will be installed as archbishop during a special Mass on November 18. Until then, George remains cardinal, though without administrative power.
This will be the first time in the history of the Chicago Archdiocese that a new leader is appointed while the former is still alive. George, 77, and Cupich, 65, have worked together in the past, and will get a chance to do that again.
VIDEO: Croatian community overjoyed with Cupich selection
"I'm following a great man. So I'm going to learn from him," Cupich said.
Cupich, who served as bishop in Spokane, Wash., is considered a moderate within the Catholic Church. George is considered more conservative.
"Labels are hard for anybody to live up to. I just try to be myself," Cupich, who also spoke in Spanish at the news conference said. "I'm going to try to be attentive to what the Lord wants. Maybe if there's moderation in that, then I'm a moderate."
What does that mean for the Chicago Archdiocese?
VIDEO: Archbishop-Designate comes to Chicago via Spokane, Wash.
"Everybody brings their own gifts and talents and experiences. . . They have all brought something different. I think it's reasonable to expect that there will be different emphasis and different approaches," he said.
Cardinal George said he was grateful for the appointment of Cupich, which, for him, brings with it a sense of relief to be removed from the headlines and to focus on his health.
"Because I'm on for it in some way. . . I have to confess, it will be relief not to read the papers with that in mind, but just to get information, and applaud, 'Oh, that's a nice story,'" he said.
George also spoke about his battle with cancer and the clinical trial he began in August.
"In the nature of my progress in my life, I have to spend a lot more attention to health problems than I had to before, both because of cancer and the dangers of infections constantly," Cardinal George said.
Being cardinal is a "full-time job. So now I'm relieved and grateful that now somebody who can do it full-time will be in charge," Cardinal said. "Archbishop Cupich is well-prepared for his new responsibilities, and brings to them a deep faith, a quick intelligence, personal commitment, and varied path of experience."
Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame released a statement Saturday morning.
"Having first met Bishop Blase Cupich when I was an 18-year-old backpacker in Europe and he was a seminarian in Rome, I can say with confidence that, as Archbishop of Chicago, he will be a pastorally dedicated, theologically astute and visionary leader in line with Francis's transformative Papacy. We thank Cardinal George for his dedicated service, and we welcome Bishop Cupich to the great Archdiocese of Chicago," Father Jenkins wrote.
In June at the Vatican, Pope Francis will grant the new Chicago archbishop his pallium, which is the scarf symbolizing his pastoral authority.
Cardinal George talks about Rome trip, new appointee
As he prepares to retire, Francis Cardinal George spoke about the possibility of making a trip to Rome that he had postponed to meet with the pope, and of course, he shared his thoughts on this appointment.
"A sense of great gratitude to Holy Father that he has acceded to my request to move along with the appointment and a great gratitude that he has appointed such an able and experienced man who will serve well as our Archbishop of Chicago," Cardinal George said. "I leave this church in better hands than mine.
"I'd also like to talk to the pope personally. I haven't had a chance to do that. Just cause he's a nice man and I would like to get to know him a bit better. So if I have the strength, I'll do that.
"You know, we're all in the hands of God and I think I'm reconciled to that and we'll see how it goes."
The cardinal says his reactions to the drugs being used to treat his cancer have been hard to predict. He says he needs to work with his doctors to sort them out.
FULL VIDEO: Cardinal George introduces successor Archbishop-Elect Blase Cupich
VIDEO: Analysis of Archbishop-Elect Blase Cupich introduction