The Vatican's Choice

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CHICAGO: The Vatican selected Portland, Oregon Archbishop Francis E. George to succeed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as head of the Chicago Archdiocese. The pick surprised many of the diocese's 2.3 million parishioners since the 60-year-old George comes from a relatively obscure post and was considered a dark horse early in the selection process. But what made the difference, church followers say, is a conservative stand on the issues which meshes nicely with the views of Pope John Paul II. "His appointment gives Chicago a pastor and gives the pope a man after his own heart," said Bernardin biographer Eugene Kennedy. George is known as a staunch advocate of the Vatican's position on abortion and doctor assisted suicide. But he occasionally displays a liberal streak which could lead to future run-ins with the Church. In 1994 and 1995, for example, he joined two other Catholic leaders in opposing anti-gay initiatives in Washington. For the most part, however, his conservative tendencies will most likely steer the diocese away from the more liberal course led by Bernardin.