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Pope names new Chicago archbishop

Published:Sunday | September 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Bishop Blase Cupich

Bishop Blase Cupich, who has struck a moderate tone on divisive social issues, was appointed the archbishop of Chicago yesterday, succeeding a cardinal with an aggressive approach to the culture wars.

Cupich, of Spokane, Washington, will take over leadership of the Archdiocese of Chicago in November, succeeding Cardinal Francis George, who has been battling cancer, and has said he believes the disease will end his life.

Cupich is Pope Francis' first major appointment in the United States, and the clearest indication yet of the direction he wants to steer American church leaders. The Chicago archdiocese is the nation's third-largest and its most important, serving more than 2.2 million Catholics. Chicago archbishops are usually elevated to cardinal and are, therefore, eligible to vote for the next pope.

George is especially admired in the church's conservative wing as an intellectual who took a hard line against abortion and gay marriage. Francis has said he wants church leaders to focus more on mercy and compassion and less on hot-button issues.

At a Chicago news conference yesterday, Cupich pledged to consult with local Catholics as he leads them.

"All my mistakes in life have come from when I've decided on my own, 'This is how things have to go,'" he said.

SWIFT ACTION

Speaking in Spanish, he urged swift action on immigration reform, noting that his grandparents had come to the US from Croatia. "Every day we delay is a day too long," he said. About 44 per cent of the archdiocese's parishioners are Latino.

Cupich played down any broader significance about why he was the pope's choice. "I think he sent a pastor, not a message," Cupich said.

Still, the Rev John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, said Cupich "will be a pastorally dedicated, theologically astute and visionary leader in line with Francis' transformative papacy."

In 2012, during the run-up to the Washington state referendum that ultimately recognised gay marriage, Cupich repeatedly underscored church teaching that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But he also wrote at length to parishioners about the suffering of gays and lesbians because of anti-gay prejudice, and he condemned violence and bullying that has led some gay teens to suicide.

- AP