CHICAGO (CBS/AP)–The process of installing a bishop as the new spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics began Monday with a knock on a cathedral door.
Blase Cupich walked up to the front door of Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral for the Rite of Reception. He was welcomed inside by outgoing Cardinal Francis George and presented with the garment called the archdiocesan stole.
“I think the significance of him knocking on the door is that the community’s calling him,” Father Tom Hurley of Old St. Pat’s Church tells CBS 2. “He was called to this community. So, the cathedral represents the larger body of the community in this archdiocese.”
George escorted Cupich to the altar, where he was greeted by civic and ecumenical leaders representing various religions, including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The process sets into motion a transfer of power in which Cupich succeeds the retiring George as the archbishop of one of the largest archdioceses in the United States. It will be the first time in the history of the archdiocese that a new archbishop has assumed leadership while his predecessor is still alive.
But it is a process steeped in tradition and symbolism, with the door, for example, symbolic of Jesus, said Michael Murphy, the director of Catholic Studies at Loyola University in Chicago. “Jesus is always the door we walk through.”
Once inside, Cupich was given a crucifix and holy water “with which to bless himself and the crucifix,” according to the archdiocese’s newspaper, Catholic New World. He also will, according to the archdiocese, be given a garment called the archdiocesan stole.
“It is given to him by his (Chicago area) brother priests and when they give it to him it is an invitation for him to be the pastor,” Murphy said.
In selecting Cupich, 65, to succeed George, Pope Francis was widely seen as sending a message with his first major appointment in the United States that he wants the new leader of the nation’s third largest archdiocese as a pastor, someone who will emphasize mercy and minister to the disadvantaged.
As if to underline his agreement with the pope, Cupich in his homily quoted the pope about the need to open “our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak.”
Cupich for the most part stayed away for specific plans, but he made it clear that he intended to take an active rule in the fight against gangs and violence.
“Many youth have no dreams, no real aspirations, no sustaining hope,” he said, in praising efforts within the parishes of trying to ease gang tensions with things such as sports. “I believe that shoring up and strengthening family life and education are also essential ingredients.”
During Tuesday’s installation Mass, Cupich will be seated in the cathedra — the archbishop’s chair — and George will present to him the crozier, or staff, that signifies the leader of the archdiocese.
George, who has cancer, is retiring after leading the archdiocese since he succeeded the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1997. Cupich has held a number of positions in the church. He comes to Chicago from the state of Washington, where he was the bishop of the Diocese of Spokane.
Cupich is being watched closely to see how he deals with a host of issues, including poverty, gun violence and a shortage of priests. He has said he will continue to speak out on a need for immigration changes and that he favors transparency in dealing with the priests accused of sexual abuse.
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