Cardinal Francis George faced the mostly African-American congregation at St. Agatha Church on Sunday and thanked them for their patience during "that terrible tragedy of sexual abuse," reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
It was the first time Cardinal George had addressed parishioners since St. Agatha's former pastor, Daniel McCormack, was sentenced July 2 to five years in prison for molesting boys.
"I'm grateful to you and proud to be your bishop," Cardinal George reportedly said, prompting applause. "I thank you also for your patience as we have tried to figure out where were the betrayals, what went wrong."
The parishioners were delighted to see the Cardinal at their parish and anxious to have a clean start with a new priest.
"We're starting fresh," said Marcy Bledsoe-Hicks. "I want to let bygones be bygones. I don't think this will ever happen again."
Cardinal George has publicly apologized for mishandling aspects of the case and allowing children to be in the presence of McCormack even after the allegations of sexual abuse. But both he and the parishioners appeared ready to move on as the new pastor, Fr. Larry Dowling, was installed, reported the Sun-Times.
Outside the church, representatives of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) urged Cardinal George to refuse the presidency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The presidency of the USCCB is expected to go to the current vice president, Cardinal George, this November.