CHICAGO (CBS) — He’s been celebrated by his church and honored by its faithful, but today, the entire city of Chicago got its turn.

Cardinal Francis George was presented with the city’s highest honor, the medal of merit, an award rarely conferred.

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CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports Cardinal George truly seemed humbled to be there.

“I don’t know that it’s a victory lap, but it’s a very good event,” he said.

Cardinal George is the first archbishop to receive the Medal of Merit. Alderman Ed Burke said the cardinal told him it’s an award that might help at the pearly gates.

“He will display his Chicago Medal of Merit to St. Peter and say, ‘St. Peter, this is who I am,’” Burke said.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel told Cardinal George, “You are not just a man of the cloth, but also of conviction.”

The cardinal poked fun about his transition to retirement.

“Unfortunately, because of Archbishop Cupich, I’m going to have to identify with the homeless in ways I didn’t anticipate,” George joked.

But no joking about his fight with the cancer that threatens his life.

“We’ll find out at the end of this month whether the treatment is working or not,” he said. “We’ll do the scans and then we’ll find out.”

Cardinal George says since his retirement as archbishop, he’s been relieved of a lot of responsibilities, but his schedule is still packed.

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The last Chicagoan to receive the Medal of Merit was Army Colonel James Hickey for his role in the capture of Saddam Hussein back in 2004.