(CBS) – Cardinal George, who saw Pope Benedict XVI last Thursday in Rome, says he was surprised by the pontiff’s bombshell announcement that he is resigning.

“We just had one or two minutes with him,” George told reporters Monday. “He asked me how my health was and I regret now that I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask how his health was.”

George says the Pope is a very private person and his public role was the most difficult for him.

“The burdens of his public life were most difficult for him. This was a courageous decision,” George says.

He says the pope’s legacy will likely be his teachings and his interfaith dialogues.

The Roman Catholic Church elects a new pope from among its cardinals, and George says he plans on attending his second papal conclave next month.

The Cardinal says he feels more experienced now and would spend more time asking questions and getting impressions of his fellow cardinals. George previously attended the conclave in 2005 that elected Benedict after Pope John Paul II died.

The 75-year-old George is the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Roman Catholics in the Chicago area.

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