Cardinal Francis George said the official process to replace him has not yet been launched, although he recently urged Catholic officials to start it.
“The fact that my health is uncertain … it’s just not fair to the archdiocese to have someone who may not be able to do the job as well as I believe it should be done,” he said.
George, who resumed chemotherapy to treat his cancer after battling an infection last month, said he doesn’t think his death is “imminent.”
“I’m not going to be dying I don’t think [in] the next few months,” he said. Hopefully the chemo will not only slow the cancer down, “it will shrink whatever tumors are there and contain it.”
Once his successor is chosen, George said he hopes to meet with him “to be able to be of service if he wants it. … Inevitably after 17 years, … I know some of the pitfalls. I know a lot of the people, and if he wants to ask questions I will be available for service.”
George submitted his letter of resignation in 2012, as all bishops are required to do when they reach 75 years of age.
The cardinal gave his remarks after a media briefing to discuss the planned April 27 canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII in Rome. He said earlier this week due to his health, he was dropping plans to attend the event, which means he’ll also miss an opportunity to meet with Pope Francis.
The pope’s decision to name John Paul II and John XXIII saints on the same day was a wise move, George said. That’s because “in popular opinion, … John XXIII comes across as a liberal and Pope Paul II comes across as more conservative. But in fact if you actually take a look at their spirit, the spirit is continuous.”
He noted both played critical roles with the Vatican II Council, which brought the church into modern times.
Regarding Francis’ statements Friday saying the church must be stronger in dealing with cases of priest child sexual abuse, George said he was unsure if that meant the church will be investigating whether certain church bishops may have failed to do all they could to protect children from abuse.
“It may” mean that, he said, but noted, “In this country, the incidences of abuse, they were reported 20 to 30 years after it happened. … I believe that most of the bishops ….who reassigned predators are dead, so the question is how did we handle it once it did come in and how was the follow-up.”
Francis on Friday also asked for forgiveness from people who were sexually abused by priests.
Contributing: Associated Press