CHICAGO (CBS) — Nothing was off the table as Cardinal Blase Cupich spoke Monday to a packed house of City Club of Chicago members at Maggiano’s in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. His speech was mostly devoted to the church’s new anti-violence programs.
“Today I want to give you an update on the anti-violence and peace building initiatives which last April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of Doctor Martin Luther King, I announced that it would be a priority for the Catholic church,” Cupich said.
The Cardinal said when he first arrived in Chicago, violence was the first thing he was asked about.
“This problem is very complex. I want to be respectful to the many good things that are happening to combat violence,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that our city’s violence is impacting young people most of all.”
Cupich said the church wants to take a bigger role in tackling Chicago’s violence and outlined its priorities.
“It is time to take meaningful and swift action to address violence in our society. We must band together to call for gun control legislation. We must act in ways that promote the dignity and value of human life and we must do it now,” Cupich said.
A new senior position with the Archdiocese is open that will handle outreach and coordination with other agencies.
“This will be a senior position. We’ve already secured funding from donors and foundations to support this and we’ve issued a call for applications,” he said.
The Cardinal also spoke out against military-style assault weapons.
“No rational being can believe that military-style, automatic-style weapons belong in the hands of ordinary citizens,” he paused for applause. “Which puts at risk not only our citizens, but especially our dedicated men and women on our police force.”
He spoke in front of a giant picture of an AK-47 on a screen behind him.
During a question and answer period after his speech, he was asked about “America’s crisis in leadership?”
He replied, “we are a democracy, and we get the leaders we deserve because we elect them,” when pushed about how he feels about President Donald Trump’s first six months in office. “We have to become involved in the political process if we don’t like it, we can change it,” he added.
The Cardinal also weighed in on the current health care debate.
“The church has always argued since the early 20’s for Universal Health Care. Health care is not a commodity, it’s not a privilege, it’s a basic human need and as a result, everyone should have access to it. It has to be affordable for people. You can’t say yes we’ll make it available, but if you can’t afford it, it is not available,” he said.
Cardinal Cupich travels to Rome about once a month, but he said he’ll stay in Chicago throughout July and August.