CHICAGO – In the weeks leading up to his installation as Chicago’s ninth archbishop, Blase Cupich quipped to reporters that the pope was sending a pastor, not a message, in naming this low-profile church moderate to lead 2.2 million Catholics here.
But over the course of a two-day ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral this week, Cupich offered a message of his own both to Chicago Catholics and his brother bishops: the progressive wing of American Catholicism has a powerful new friend in one of America’s most important dioceses.
In homilies delivered at two services, Cupich quoted Pope Francis and called on the Church to engage the world while being open to change.
There was no mention of abortion, or contraception, or gay marriage. Instead, Cupich spoke of the vulnerable, the poor, the weak, the lost, the forlorn, those who are adrift. He spoke of mercy, joy, and compassion, and dismissed anger, harshness, and fear.
“Simply put, we are to join Christ in seeking out, inviting, and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us. Each one of those aspects of our mission, seeking out, inviting, and accompanying deserves a closer look,” Cupich said Tuesday during his installation Mass, with dozens of bishops from around the United States and scores of priests from Chicago and beyond looking on.
Cardinal Francis George, who is considered the intellectual leader of conservative Catholic bishops, attended the services, the first Chicago archbishop alive to see his successor. Cupich praised his leadership, and announced that the Eucharistic prayer would include prayers for George as “bishop emeritus,” a tribute to his 17-year legacy.