Pope Francis expressed his condolences on the passing of Cardinal Francis George in a telegram to Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich sent Saturday morning.
"Saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Francis E. George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese," the pope wrote.
"With gratitude for Cardinal George's witness of consecrated life as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, his service to the Church's educational apostolate and his years of episcopal ministry in the Churches of Yakima, Portland and Chicago, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father. To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord."
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Cardinal George passed away Friday at 78 years old following a long battle with cancer. The pope received word of the cardinal's death in Rome in the late evening.
Pope Francis said he had "great esteem" for Cardinal George and was very close to him during his suffering.
The pope appointed Archbishop Cupich to succeed Cardinal George after his retirement in 2012. Following the cardinal's death, Archbishop Cupich called the cardinal "a man of peace, tenacity and courage."
Three days of services have been planned for Cardinal George, beginning April 21 at Holy Name Cathedral.