Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who is retiring in November amidst a bout with cancer, praised his successor and thanked Chicago Catholics for their prayers and support during his 17-year tenure.

“I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my years as archbishop of Chicago,” George wrote for Catholic New World. “I am grateful to God, of course, who blessed me with this calling, but grateful as well to the millions of Catholics and others in our community who have been so good to me and so dedicated to the mission of the church here.”

George, 77, was installed as archbishop of Chicago in 1997 and is widely viewed as an intellectual heavyweight among Catholic conservatives. His successor, Spokane’s Bishop Blase Cupich, is viewed as a moderate, leading some to speculate that Pope Francis is trying to reshape how the church engages the public square. Still, George offered praise for the Omaha native who will be installed Nov. 17.

“Our life in Christ together with and under the direction of Archbishop Cupich will be shaped by his dedication to the faith, his love for Christ’s people, his quick and insightful intelligence and his varied pastoral experiences,” George wrote.

George said he feels a “certain sense of relief” about his retirement, “knowing that my responsibilities will now be taken up by someone with fresh eyes and ears and with strength enough to rethink the various tasks.” He said he looks forward to spending time “back in the confessionals and on the food lines.”

Calling the process to find his successor “lengthy,” George said among the highlights of his tenure were friendships formed “in the Jewish community and among Muslims and followers of other religions, even secularists and, I would like to think, among the media!” He thanked priests and nuns in the archdiocese and asked for the “grace to finish the tasks at hand now and the zest to begin something new with great joy in November.”