National News

Spokane Bishop Named to Head Chicago Archdiocese

by Joyce Duriga

Archbishop Cupich
Archbishop Cupich

CHICAGO (CNS) – Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., as the ninth archbishop of Chicago.

The appointment was announced Sept. 20 in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the U.S.

Archbishop Cupich, 65, will be installed Nov. 18 during a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

Cardinal Francis George, the current archbishop of Chicago, is 77, two years past the age when bishops are required by canon law to turn in their resignation to the pope. He retains the office of archbishop until his successor’s installation.

The cardinal was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and had a recurrence of cancer in 2012. In August, the archdiocese announced that he was participating in a clinical research trial for a new cancer drug. His health concerns stepped up the process of searching for his successor.

Cardinal George introduced Archbishop Cupich (pronounced “Soo-pich”) during a news conference held at the Archbishop Quigley Pastoral Center in Chicago the day the appointment was announced.

“Bishop Cupich is well prepared for his new responsibilities and brings to them a deep faith, a quick intelligence, personal commitment and varied pastoral experiences,” Cardinal George said.

The new archbishop is no stranger to Chicago having served on the board of Catholic Extension since 2009. The Chicago-based organization supports the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses.

Archbishop Cupich said his appointment “humbles and encourages” him, and his priority as the new archbishop is to be attentive to the way God is working through the people in the archdiocese.

He learned of the appointment 10 days before the announcement and said he felt overwhelmed and surprised when Archbishop Vigano called him.

Some in the media describe Archbishop Cupich as a moderate, but when asked about the description, he said, “Labels are hard for anybody to live up to, one way or another. I just try to be myself and I try to learn from great people. You’ve had great people here in this archdiocese pastor you. And I’m following a great man.”

When asked if his appointment – the first major appointment made by Pope Francis in the U.S. – sends a message about the pontiff’s agenda, Archbishop Cupich said no.

A Bishop, Not a Message

“I think the Holy Father is a pastoral man. I think that his priority is to send a bishop, not a message,” he said.

That Archbishop Cupich’s new flock is a lot larger than his present flock is not lost on him.

“This is an enormous upgrade, so to speak,” Archbishop Cupich told the media. “We had a hundred thousand Catholics in eastern Washington and I had 27,000 Catholics in South Dakota.” There are 2.2 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago, which is the third largest archdiocese in the nation.

When pressed on what tone he will bring to the archdiocese, the new archbishop said: “I think it’s really important to keep in mind that it’s not my church, it’s Christ’s church. I have to be attentive to his voice in the lives of the people and the word of God and the way that he communicates to all of us through the pointers that he gives.”

Archbishop Cupich thanked Catholics in the archdiocese for their welcome and said he looks forward to visiting parishes and communities.

“I really am sincere in saying I know that I can only do this if I have their support and prayers. I want to be very pronounced in asking, begging for their prayers,” he told the archdiocesan newspaper.

Archbishop Cupich did his doctoral work on Scripture readings used in the liturgy and that remains a part of his spiritual nourishment, he said.

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