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Cardinal George Names Priest As Church CFO

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Cardinal Francis George talks with CBS 2 Friday on his way to Rome. (CBS)

Cardinal Francis George talks with CBS 2 Friday on his way to Rome. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Francis Cardinal George must submit his resignation to Pope Benedict when he turns 75 Friday, and he wants to make sure that his financial house is in order when he leaves.

While George is required to submit a letter of resignation, the pope is not likely to accept it right away. As part of that transitional process, the Cardinal is naming a new chief administrator for the Chicago Roman Catholic archdiocese.

Church law now requires a priest to hold the job of Moderator of the Curia, essentially the archdiocese’s chief financial officer.

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A lay person, Jimmy Lago, has taken on those duties as part of the archdiocesan Chancellor’s job for the past 12 years.

To meet the new requirement, Cardinal George has chosen the Rev. Peter Snieg, currently the rector of St. Joseph Seminary, the undergraduate seminary of the archdiocese.

Father Snieg will take over day-to-day operations of the archdiocese’s two pastoral centers July 1; until then, he will work with Lago to try to assure a smooth transition.

Cardinal George said, in a prepared statement, that Lago has done his job “capably,” said the appointment brings the archdiocese in compliance with church law and is intended to assure stability as a new archbishop is named to replace him.

Father Snieg has plenty of work ahead. Cardinal George said Snieg will be charged with planning a capital campaign, implementing a five-year strategic plan begun last year, creating a comprehensive plan for Catholic education, revitalizing saving and lending structures for parishes, and refinancing Archdiocesan debt to take advantage of today’s historically-low interest rates and the good credit rating of the archdiocese.

The resignation letter being submitted by Cardinal George is required under canon (church) law when a bishop turns 75. Pope Benedict XVI need not accept it right away, and the transition to a new archbishop could last several years.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese said the custom of Pope Benedict is to leave a bishop in place until he celebrates the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Cardinal George will reach that milestone Dec. 21, 2013.

As an example, 77-year-old Bishop Thomas Doran continues to oversee the Rockford Diocese, which includes Kane and McHenry Counties. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination Dec. 20.

Archdiocesan spokesperson Colleen Dolan said that Cardinal George’s health is “excellent.”

When a replacement is named, the new head of the more than 2.3 million Catholics in Cook and Lake Counties will be installed as an archbishop. The past six Chicago archbishops have been elevated to the rank of Cardinal.

Replacing Father Snieg as St. Joseph rector will be the Rev. Paul Stein, currently the pastor of St. Sylvester parish in Chicago.

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