CHICAGO (CBS) – Cardinal Francis George will be submitting a letter of retirement as Chicago’s archbishop to the Pope next month when he turns 75, but he said he hopes the Pope won’t accept it.
The cardinal said he turns 75 on Jan. 16 and, at that age, bishops are required to send a retirement letter to the Pope.
“It depends on the Holy Father to accept it whenever he wants to. Usually, it’s a year or two,” the cardinal said Sunday while visiting Children’s Memorial Hospital for Christmas.
But the cardinal told ABC-Channel 7 that he hopes Pope Benedict XVI will wait a few years before accepting his retirement.
Cardinal George’s comments come in the wake of controversial remarks about Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade, in which he compared the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports
For next year’s Pride Parade, organizers had planned a number of changes, including a new parade route and an earlier start time.
But leaders at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave., complained that the new route would draw massive crowds and block access to parishioners coming to the church for Sunday mass. The parade is held on the last Sunday in June and the new route sends the parade directly past the church for the first time.
After church leaders requested that the parade change its start time back to noon, the cardinal discussed the dispute in an interview on Fox Chicago, in which he said that he disapproved of the new route because the “gay liberation movement” should not “morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”
On Sunday, during a visit to Children’s Memorial Hospital, the cardinal said he never meant to compare gay rights activists to members of the Ku Klux Klan.
“What I was comparing was a parade to a parade. Obviously it’s absurd to say that the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Kluxers, but if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we’ve had in our past, because it stops us from worshipping God; well then, that’s the comparison,” the cardinal said. “But it’s not with people and people, it’s parade-parade.”
Parade organizers have since agreed to reschedule the start of the parade to noon to avoid a conflict with church services at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The cardinal said his only concern was making sure the Pride Parde did not interfere with Catholics being able to worship at their church.
“Which is ironic, because that is the church that every week welcomes the gay community, which I’m very glad of,” the cardinal said. “But we’ve just been singing ‘O Come, Let Us Adore Him,’ that’s what it’s all about and if you interfere with the worship of God, then that’s an absolute for us and it brings up a lot of memories of people who marched in other occasions to interfere with our worship, to show that Catholics are outside of the mainstream of American society.”
Even when Cardinal George eventually steps down as Chicago’s bishop, he would still be among a group of cardinals that could elect the next pope, until the cardinal reaches the age of 80.