The Most Rev. Edward K. Braxton
Bishop of Belleville
On the Death of
His Eminence, Francis Eugene Cardinal George, O.M.I.
(January 16, 1937 – April 17, 2015)
Archbishop of Chicago and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Chicago
in which the Diocese of Belleville is a Suffragan See
May 7, 1997- November 18, 2014
I join with my fellow Bishops in Illinois in mourning the death of His Eminence, Cardinal George. He was blessed with a long full life, and I am comforted by the fact that his suffering, which he endured with stoic grace, has ended. I only regret that he did not live to have years of retirement during which he would surely have continued to make valuable contributions to the Church. As it is, he made extraordinary contributions to the Catholic Church in Chicago, in the United States and around the world. He brought his singular gifts as a teacher to his Episcopal ministry, which enriched the world-wide Church.
A few weeks ago when I was in Chicago, I made a special effort to visit the Cardinal at his residence, shortly before his final hospitalization. During our quiet conversation in the upstairs quarters of the historic house, we shared thoughts on several topics of importance to each of us.
Some of his observations were particularly poignant for me personally. I think we both were keenly aware that this might well be our last intimate conversation. I thanked him for his singular ministry as forthright teacher of the Catholic faith in the face of the relativism and materialism of a largely secular culture, which has very little room for the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth as taught by the Catholic Church. I thanked him as well for his genuine concern and solicitousness for me during the years since he installed me as eighth Bishop of Belleville on June 22, 2005. (He called me shortly after that to inform me of his first diagnosis with cancer.)
I met Cardinal George long before that. When he was Father George and I was Father Braxton, he came to my New York office at William H. Sadlier, Inc. (the Catholic publisher where I served as Official Theological Consultant). He presented me with a manuscript of one of his early books hoping that Sadlier would publish it. While we were not able to publish it, this encounter served as the beginning of many years of informal conversations on topics of mutual theological interest such as liturgy, Christology, ecclesiology, and ecumenism. Most recently, we discussed my pastoral letter on the Racial Divide in the United States. In the end, however, I will remember him always for the selfless and joyful manner in which he served the People of God of the Archdiocese of Chicago in the face of so many challenges.
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” (Hamlet)