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Future Chicago archbishop speaks to parishioners

Published:Wednesday | November 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Bishop Blase Cupich, left, and the retiring Cardinal Francis George listen during his Rite of Reception service at Holy Name Cathedral, in Chicago.

CHICAGO (AP):

The bishop set to become the leader of the third-largest diocese in the United States has vowed that he will be active in the Chicago community by pushing for immigration reform, battling gang violence and helping the poor.

Blase Cupich delivered the homily at Holy Name Cathedral, speaking to hundreds of civic and religious leaders, including his retiring predecessor, Cardinal Francis George.

"You will find me a ready partner," said Cupich, who yesterday officially become the archbishop of Chicago, overseeing an archdiocese that includes more than two million parishioners.

Cupich 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."

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 the views he shares with the pope, Cupich quoted Pope Francis, speaking of the need to open "our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak," he said. "If our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures."

Cupich, who comes to the archdiocese after serving as bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, knows he will be watched closely as he deals with a host of issues, including the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church, and which he was asked about minutes after his plane landed in Chicago last week. He did not offer any specifics about how he might tackle that issue and others.