NEW ORLEANS (CBS) — Despite Francis Cardinal George’s cancer struggle and soon-to-end tenure as archbishop in Chicago is no lame duck.
CBS 2’s Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the cardinal overshadows a gathering of bishops likely to produce his successor.
Slight in stature, with an uneven gait due to childhood polio, Cardinal George is nonetheless a powerful force among the nation’s Catholic bishops.
“All of the members of the conference listen when he speaks because he never speaks when he doesn’t have something to say,” said Archbishop for the military Timothy Broglio.
The cardinal was welcomed in New Orleans Tuesday by colleagues not so much concerned about his successor as his health.
“They come up very often and said they’re praying for me, that’s what they were concerned about,” said Cardinal George.
But the elephant in the room is which of these men, and it’s likely it will be one of them, another American bishop, will succeed him.
As former Chicago Auxiliary Bishop George Murray says, “I think there’re a number are a number of people if asked that I would recommend but I’m not so crazy as to say the names in public.”
One of those names is Chicago native Wilton Gregory, now archbishop of Atlanta.
“I supposed if you talk to three bishops you’ll have six possibilities with a seventh one lurking in the wings,” said Gregory. “When hear that I think I’ve already already got a job.”
Another is former Chicago auxiliary bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the current archbishop of San Antonio.
“What I’m doing in San Antonio is exciting who knows where the Holy Spirit will lead us,” said Archbishop Garcia-Siller.
On Wednesday night, the bishops gathered to pray in the oldest continually used cathedral in America, perhaps for the guidance some told us they sought for the choice of Chicago’s next archbishop.
“I would presume the good people will pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the holy father in his choice of a new archbishop of Chicago,” said Miami Archbishop Joseph Wenski.
Archbishop Wenski is one of those mentioned as a possible successor to Cardinal George, though the motorcycle riding Florida native like other favorites would only joke about the possibility.
“I would say most people from Illinois move to Florida not people from Florida move to Illinois,” said Wenski.
Borglio says he is “shocked” whenever he hears his name mentioned for the job. A number of others like Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle are saying nothing at all, heeding the Pope’s recent criticism of bishops’ campaigning for higher office. Others try to deflect the speculation.
The cardinal himself, meanwhile, is enjoying a kind of victory lap, a long goodbye, from colleagues as well as Chicagoans he bumped into outside the cathedral.
“He’s just a genuinely warm man and we said we prayed for him,” said Lynn Presico of Elk Grove Village.
“He’s in our prayers cause he needs that right now,” said Chuck Persico.
The cardinal is also being praised by his fellow bishops, three of whom he’s recommended to the Pope’s man in America, Papal Nuncio Carlo Vigano. Who’ll make the final recommendation to the Vatican? There, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and other members of the congregation for bishops will determine which three names go to the Pope. Neither Vigano nor Wuerl is talk here this week.
It’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet that one of the bishops here in New Orleans this week will be the next archbishop of Chicago.