Thursday, July 27, 2006

All Eyes on Chicago

At this hour, Cardinal Francis George remains in surgery to remove a cancerous bladder at Chicago's Loyola University Medical Center. A medical briefing is expected at 2.30pm local time (1930GMT).
This morning, George left his hospital room at dawn in jovial spirits after a good night's rest, said Colleen Dolan, communications director for the archdiocese. Before rolling out of his room, Rev. John Canary, the archdiocese's vicar general, Dolan, and a cousin from Chicago joined him for morning prayers.
In Rome and the States, there's a good bit of nervous pacing going on. Since his 1997 appointment to the US' second-largest local church, the 69 year-old George has gradually filled the role of the national hierarchy's de facto leader and its intellectual voice.

Long the Holy See's American point man on liturgical matters, George's preeminence both at home and abroad was solidified by his 2004 election as vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the college of cardinals' choice of Pope Benedict XVI five months later. Both in their views and personal friendship, the Chicago cardinal is the closest US-based prelate to the Pope.

As reports circulated that George's prognosis appeared less certain than the optimism conveyed in the public statements, a marathon vigil will take place this evening at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. While the public rosaries and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will end at midnight, the church will remain open for silent prayer around the clock, with exposition beginning again at 5am local time tomorrow morning.

The archdiocese of Chicago also announced that a midday ecumenical prayer service was conducted at the hospital by the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

AP File/Nam Y. Huh