Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George recently submitted his retirement to the Vatican. He is 79 years old and this is normal procedure. But the Vatican will very likely not accept this retirement, at least not quite yet. This means Francis Cardinal George will remain in his leadership position in Chicago for a few more years. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Cardinal George but not yet enjoyed a friendly, personal conversation in private.
The Chicago Tribune did a story on Cardinal George in their Saturday, March 19, edition. He noted that he wants to spend this year focusing on improving relations with other Christian denominations. He said, “It’s more a personal examination of conscience. We spent a lot of time on Muslim-Catholic, Jewish-Catholic relations. When I look at my own schedule of who I’ve been talking to, I haven’t talked as much as I should’ve to leaders of Protestant churches.”
Cardinal George believes ecumenical conversations fulfill a vital mission that has been neglected during his time in Chicago. “The point of all these conversations is, first of all, to know that we are friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re all baptized. But to move beyond that to say: ‘What do we have to do to keep moving toward the kind of . . . unity we believe Christ wants for his people?’ We perhaps haven’t talked about that as much . . . We have to keep those conversations going.”
I really profoundly agree with Cardinal George. This is a major reason for my March trip to Rome. It is in honest, humble and Christian conversation that we make great progress in unity. Papers and formal dialogs are very important but these conversations are huge in the kingdom of God. After all, friendship is still at the heart of Christian love and the advance of Christ’s kingdom.