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.
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Obviously, I agree with both you and Cdl. George. I’m reminded of a lecture I was listening to recently with Prof. J. Budziszewski, an Evangelical convert to Catholicism and natural law theorist. If memory serves, he was referring to a USCCB document talking about natural law, and it discussed the Catholic point of view, with sections describing how other world religions approach the question of natural law. Omitted was any reference to where Protestantism stood on it, even though the document dealt with Protestantism elsewhere.
Budziszewski suggested that the problem wasn’t that the USCCB thought there was some irreparable chasm separating Catholics and Protestants on this issue, but that the document’s author didn’t take into account that Protestants would even think of this differently. That is, the problem was that they were underestimating the Catholic/Protestant differences, not overestimating them.
I suspect that this happens a lot. We can forget that we’ve still got a lot to work out, since we’re so close when compared to non-Christians. God Bless!
Cardinal George is 74 not 79. January 16, 1937.
Thank you. This is my obvious mistake and I should have known it since Cardinal George has engaged with me personally in Christian friendship. I am mortified by this error. Believe me I am chagrined.
John, I “really profoundly agree” with your last paragraph. I have come to realize that I need to be willing to “get in the boat”, any kind of boat, just as Jesus got into Simon’s fishing boat. This incarnation process is so amazing to not only read about in Scripture, but to see it lived out by people like you. Going to Rome to open a dialogue between Catholics and Protestants! I have much to learn.