An upbeat Cardinal Francis George said Saturday that receiving chemotherapy may at times interrupt his public schedule but that he expects to continue making appearances and leading services during his cancer treatment.
The comments come a day after the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement saying the cardinal, 77, had recently undergone extensive testing, scans and biopsies that led doctors to agree he should enter into a regimen of aggressive chemotherapy after discovering new cancer cells in his right kidney. George was diagnosed with urothelial cancer in August 2012, but after chemotherapy, the cancer had been dormant for well over a year, according to the archdiocese.
On Saturday, the cardinal shared only positive thoughts with reporters after leading a confirmation service at St. Clement Church in Lincoln Park.
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"Chemo treatment goes in waves. I'm in a wave where I'm dizzy," he said, laughing, but added, "I'm OK, I feel OK. I'm not in pain or anything."
During the Saturday Mass, the cardinal joked with church attendants after he excused himself for sitting during most of the service.
"It would be very dramatic if I should fall over," he told them, drawing laughter.
George said he will continue to attend meetings and gatherings "as long as I am able to do it and I expect to be able to do it." Still, the chemotherapy may at times prevent him from attending some social events since the treatment can make him more vulnerable to germs.
"You shouldn't be shaking a lot of hands and stuff like that," he said. "That will cut down a little bit on the public schedule during those four or five days when I'm most prone to infection."
The return of George's cancer comes two years after he submitted a mandatory resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI, required of all Catholic bishops when they turn 75. Popes generally do not accept the resignations when first offered.
The cardinal's health raises questions about his retirement. When asked Saturday about whether the Pope may soon accept his retirement because of the recent development, George did not speculate on what the Pope might do but said he would like to continue working awhile longer.
In a recent column about his health that appeared in a Chicago Archdiocese newspaper, George wrote about his retirement that "no one knows when that will be, except perhaps the Holy Father, and he hasn't told me."
Before joining a group of parishioners over muffins and coffee after the service, George told reporters that being among Catholics in Chicago is important to him.
"These are my people so I gather strength from them," he said. "I hope that in my own way I can give them strength as well."
During the Saturday ceremony, George told the dozens of young people getting confirmed into the church that he would keep them in his prayers and said "I ask you to pray for me as well."