Chicago Cardinal Francis George has made a "heartbreaking" decision not to travel to Rome for the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II this month because he is undergoing treatment for cancer.
The 77-year-old spiritual leader of the city’s more than 2 million Roman Catholics survived bladder cancer eight years ago but was diagnosed with urothelial cancer in 2012.
The archdiocese said in a statement
that the cardinal underwent chemotherapy and the cancer has been dormant for "well over a year."
However, his doctors decided last month that though it still is confined to the area of his right kidney, he should undergo a new round of therapy with more aggressive drugs.
The archdiocese said Tuesday that he has resumed chemotherapy this week after being hospitalized with an infection but has accepted medical advice not to travel overseas for the canonizations, which take place April 27.
He is "extremely disappointed" he cannot attend the sainthood ceremonies, Archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said.
The Chicago Tribune
reports the cancellation of the trip is "heartbreaking " as he considered the late Pope John Paul II a father figure.
"George visibly struggled with the loss of John Paul II in April 2005, wiping away tears during a homily he composed in the hours that followed the pope’s death and delivered that evening at Holy Name Cathedral," the newspaper recalled.
He will take part in the Holy Week services and Easter Sunday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral.
But he will avoid distributing communion and exchanging hugs with parishioners because of a lowered immune system, church officials said.
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