(CBS) — The Archdiocese Of Chicago introduced Spokane Bishop Blase Cupich as the next Archbishop of Chicago at a press conference Saturday morning, replacing Cardinal George.
Bishop Cupich will be installed as Archbishop of Chicago on Nov. 18 in a ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral.
Pope Francis’ choice for Chicago has been closely watched. It is his first major U.S. appointment and the clearest sign yet of the direction he hopes to steer American church leaders.
Cupich is a moderate and is not among the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops who take a culture warrior approach on hot-button topics. Francis says the church should emphasize mercy over divisive social issues.
Cupich, 65, is from Omaha, Neb. and was ordained there in 1975, according to the Spokane Diocese website. He was installed as the Bishop of Spokane in September 2010.
Cardinal George turned 75 two years ago and offered his resignation, as required. Back May, he asked the Papal Nuncio to begin the search for a replacement due to a recurrence of cancer.
The Pope’s choice is a real stunner, for a number of reasons, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.
First, the selection came so quickly, just four months after the search began. Second, Cupich is not already an archbishop. Third, he has no ties to Chicago or the Midwest and was on no public list of potential successors to the Cardinal.
The Cardinal recently began a new form a treatment for his cancer at the University of Chicago Hospital. The Cardinal has continued a full schedule while being treated, and some thought he’d be left in his post until after his 78th birthday, in January.
The Archdiocese of Chicago serves 2.2 million parishioners and is the third-largest diocese in the country. Chicago archbishops are usually elevated to cardinal and are therefore eligible to vote for the next pope.
The Chicago church has long been considered a flagship of American Catholicism, sparking lay movements of national influence and producing archbishops who shape national debate. Before George, the head of the archdiocese was Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a hero to Catholics who place equal importance on issues such as abortion and poverty.
In a 2012 essay in the Jesuit magazine America, Cupich said the U.S. bishops “rightly objected” to the original narrow religious exemption in President Barack Obama’s requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers contraception. But Cupich called for a “return to civility” in conversations about religious liberty and society.
“While the outrage to the (government) decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact,” Cupich said. “We should never stop talking to one another.”
Cupich has also defended Francis’ views on the economy and emphasis on fighting poverty, which some Catholics and others have criticized as naive and against capitalism.
“Instead of approaching life from the 30-thousand-feet level of ideas, he challenges policy makers and elected officials — indeed all of us — to experience the life of everyday and real people,” Cupich said at a conference last June on the Catholic case against libertarianism. “Much like he told religious leaders, Francis is saying that politicians and policy makers need to know the smell of the sheep.”
The Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests or “SNAP” is speaking out against the selection. They released a statement saying in part:
“We hope that Chicago’s next Catholic Archbishop will do more to prevent future clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. But we’re not optimistic.”
Friday, the Spokesman Review reported that more than 200 victims have come forward in Spokane.
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