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Archbishop of Chicago speaks at Notre Dame

Matt Bramanti | Friday, October 3, 2003

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, delivered a keynote address Thursday night to kick off an ecumenical conference entitled “Formation and Renewal.”

George said he appreciated the invitation to speak at the conference, which runs through Saturday. “At Notre Dame, I see so many Chicago names and the results of so much Chicago money,” he quipped.

His remarks in McKenna Hall focused on “The Legacy of Pope John Paul II,” specifically how the pope has addressed post-Enlightenment conflict between faith and reason.

He decried modern secularism which he said looks at God as “a competitor, trying to restrain human freedom.”

“And if God is a threat to our freedom, then he must be killed, because we kill for our freedom.” George said.

He praised the pope’s leadership against secularism, saying “there are many reasons to be grateful to God for John Paul II and his ministry.”

“[His papacy has] an image of a God who is preoccupied with humanity. And if God is a humanist, then the humanist should be godly,” George said.

In speaking about the pope’s dramatic and poetic writings, the cardinal focused on John Paul II’s use of light as an allegory. One of the pope’s poems includes the lines, “the element of light; brightness breathes from every side.”

George said the pope’s frequent use of light imagery is manifested in John Paul II’s push for increased public devotion to the rosary. In 2002, the pope added five new “Luminous Mysteries” to the rosary’s existing 15 sections.

He explained the pope’s devotion to prayer, saying, “His is a contemplative life. Constantly, he’s in touch with the Lord.”

George said the pope’s prayers give him “the courage we’ve seen.” In his nearly 25 years as pope, John Paul II has made 102 trips to foreign countries and survived a 1981 assassination attempt.

The speech was eerily timely, as one of his fellow cardinals, Austria’s Christoph Schoenborn, said that the pope was near death.

The conference, sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame, is the first in a three-part series dealing with “reflection on the renewal and formation that lie at the heart of the culture of life,” according to program literature.

Philosophers, theologians, and other academics from around the country will be in attendance. In addition, undergraduate and high school students will present papers.

Senior Jennie Bradley, who helped coordinate the conference, said that past conferences have been successful because of the people they drew.

“We’ve brought a lot of high-level, well respected academics,” Bradley said. “Each person adds their own little bit of expertise, and it adds up to this awesome whole.”