When Cardinal Francis George arrived at the papal conclave, he knew the enormity of the decision at hand — as he explained to students and community members Monday, without a pope, no one held the keys to God’s kingdom.
George, who serves as archbishop of Chicago, addressed about 100 people at Sheil Catholic Center. The archbishop spoke about his experience at the papal conclave last March and the current state of the Roman Catholic Church.
George, the first native Chicagoan to become archbishop of the city, was appointed in 1997. He traveled to the Vatican in March to elect the world’s first pope from the Western Hemisphere, Pope Francis.
On his experience in voting procedures for the next pope, George said: “You’re in the Sistine Chapel, you have the creation of the world by young Michelangelo on the ceiling and end of the world on the wall by old Michelangelo, and here we are in between. We have to make a choice, and that choice will affect the history of the Church and the history of the world.”
In looking for the next pope, the archbishop said the cardinals were looking for someone who could effectively govern the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, George said, while a prolific writer, was an intensely private and shy man.
“We felt the need to finish the job. When there is no pope, the Church is not complete,” George said.
He also discussed freedom of the Church, both in governing itself and within society, calling on audience members to counter individualism in American culture by serving as a church community.
Many of those in attendance were students. During a Q-and-A, George discussed the role of young people in the Church and what the new pope means for a new generation of Catholics.
Following the speech, Weinberg freshman Lucy Filipac said she came to hear George due to his prominence and relationship with the Pope.
“He’s a big player in the Catholic Church,” she said. “It’s inspiring .... He is very strong in his faith.”