The process to find a successor for Cardinal Francis George has begun.
The Chicago archdiocese confirmed Thursday that George was informed by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the U.S., that he has begun the consulting process and expects to complete it in late fall.
The archdiocese said it has no further information at this time.
George, 77, submitted his resignation in 2012, per canon law requirements for bishops when they reach the age of 75. That same year in August the cardinal was diagnosed with cancer in his right kidney.
Church observers have watched closely the developments in Chicago -- the third largest diocese in the nation -- and view Pope Francis' decision as ultimately sending a major signal to the U.S. church about his priorities in the country.
While Francis has appointed several U.S. bishops, the Windy City see presents “the first cardinal-level diocese in the country” he will name, Rocco Palmo, author of the blog "Whispers in the Loggia," told the Chicago Tribune in late April.
In March, George made the decision to undergo a new round of chemotherapy in his fight against urothelial cancer. After a checkup of his treatment March 14 at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., he remained hospitalized with flulike symptoms and dehydration. He resumed chemo treatment in early April. His medical condition prevented the cardinal from traveling to Rome for the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in late April.
In announcing his decision to restart chemotherapy, George spoke candidly about his future.
“As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months. While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death," he said in his column for the archdiocese's newspaper, the Catholic New World.
[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]