By Jay Levine

CHICAGO (CBS) — When Francis Cardinal George turns 75 on Jan. 16, he’s required by church law to hand in his resignation.

But after 15 years as Archbishop of Chicago, he’s not ready to step down just yet.

“I am looking forward to being the first Archbishop of Chicago to live long enough to retire, but it’s not going to happen in the immediate future,” George tells CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine.

While there’s been some speculation he might leave soon after turning 75, CBS 2 has learned that in recent meetings with priests and others, the Cardinal has predicted he’d be here for another two or three years. Part of that is tradition.

“You submit your letter of resignation and they wait about a year usually and sometimes in the case of cardinals two or three years,” George says.

And part of it are the signs being sent from Rome, where his recent appointments to Vatican commissions and assignments seem to indicate Pope Benedict has no plans to accept George’s resignation anytime soon.

For his part, Cardinal George doesn’t seem ready to go, either.

“A few people probably would be glad if I retired earlier, a few people might want me to retire later, but we’ll do with the Lord wants,” George says. “Much of it is related to health.”

That has always been an issue. A childhood bout with polio makes walking, especially climbing stairs, difficult. He’s battled bladder cancer and fractured his hip in a fall.

But he remains active, though not as busy as he was during six years as president and vice president of the U.S. Bishops Conference.

“I’ll send my letter in January and I’ll see the pope in February,” the Cardinal says. “I will undoubtedly bring the question up to him then.”

Given that he’s the ultimate Vatican insider and a longtime colleague of Pope Benedict, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been given some indication what to expect.

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