CHICAGO (CBS) — Roman Catholic leaders from around the country are headed for Chicago this week.
Between 50 and a hundred bishops, including most U.S. Cardinals are expected for the funeral of Francis Cardinal George.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine spoke with one of those bishops who was at the cardinal’s bedside when he died.
He says the pain was apparently intense, though characteristically, the cardinal never complained, even trying to ease the pain of loved ones like his sister.
“He kept saying to her, ‘You don’t have to hurry back, I’m not gonna die,’” said retired Vicar General Raymond Goedert.
Bishop Goedert, who lives in the residence, saw through those reassuring words.
“Just watching how he accepted his suffering I thought, this is really heroic,” Goedert said.
Goedert’s successor as vicar general Bishop Francis Kane also shared the cardinal’s final days with him.
“One thing he told me was he wanted to die well,” Bishop Kane said. “I think what he meant is probably that he wanted to die with dignity, but also to die as a man of faith, and I think he succeeded.”
Bishop Kane had worked closely with the cardinal after being named one of his auxiliary bishops.
Bishop Goedert was with him Friday morning when the time came.
“I was at the breakfast table and Father Dan said the cardinal would like us to come up and pray,” Goedert said. “His eyes were open and Fr. Flens gave him Holy Communion and as the breathing subsided, I said the prayers for the dying…I struggled to get through the prayer. I was afraid I would lose it and he had asked that we sing the ‘Salve Regina’ so we sang the ‘Salve Regina.’ It was kind of a nice way to go. He always was curious about ‘I wonder what it is like’ and now he know. I wish he could come back and tell us.”
Bishop Goedert said the two shared many good times, filled with both serious thoughts and much laughter. He says the official residence of Chicago archbishops, today just feels empty.
The final visitation for Cardinal George begins at Holy Name Cathedral on Tuesday and concludes Wednesday evening. The funeral will take place on Thursday and tickets will be required. CBS 2 will have live coverage on Thursday, starting at 11 a.m.
For a full schedule, click here.