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Next Chicago Archbishop Aims to Nourish Faith

Diocese of Spokane
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Asked If He Considers Self a “Moderate,” Bishop Cupich Say, “I Just Try to Be Myself.”

Chicago’s Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich introduced himself to his new city on Saturday, downplaying political interpretations of his appointment and stressing the need to be attentive to God’s voice.

“My priority as a priest and now as a bishop is to recognize that God is already at work in the lives of people,” the archbishop-designate told a Sept. 20 press conference in Chicago. “People come to us as priests, as ministers of the Church, because they have already experienced God, and what they want us to do is to confirm, support and nourish people in that call.”

“My first priority is just to be attentive to all that God is doing here already,” he said.

Pope Francis has named Cupich, the current Bishop of Spokane, Washington, as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago. He will be installed on Nov. 18 at the city’s Holy Name Cathedral.

Cardinal Francis George said he is “most grateful” to Pope Francis for appointing his successor.

The cardinal praised the archbishop-designate as “well prepared for his new responsibilities,” saying he brings “a deep faith, quick intelligence, personal commitment and varied pastoral experience.”

Archbishop-designate Cupich voiced a desire to work in a collaborative fashion, noting the importance “to set aside my ego and my agenda.”

“It’s not my Church, it’s Christ’s Church. I have to be attentive to his voice in the lives of people and the Word of God,” he said.

The archbishop-designate spoke about the unexpected nature of his appointment.

“Surprise doesn’t come close,” he said. Recalling that Pope Francis’ first act was to ask for others’ prayers, he asked that the people of Chicago pray for him.

The Archbishop of Chicago plays an influential role in the Catholic Church in the U.S. and typically becomes a cardinal. News of the appointment has already drawn many interpretations, echoed by reporters’ questions at the Saturday press conference.

Archbishop-designate Cupich was asked whether Pope Francis’ appointment was intended to send a message.

“I think that his priority is not to send a message, but a bishop,” he replied. “And that’s what he’s sending here. Someone to serve the needs of people.”

“I wouldn’t want to in any way overly politicize this or put it in a different context.”

Asked to respond to news reports categorizing him as a “moderate,” the archbishop-designate initially avoided labels.

“Labels are hard for anybody to live up to, one way or another. I just try to be myself, and I try to learn from great people.”

He said it would be normal for a new archbishop to bring different emphases and approaches.

He said he would learn from Cardinal George and other individuals who “have demonstrated great leadership in the life of the Church.”

“I’m going to try to be attentive to what the Lord wants. Maybe if there’s moderation in that, then I’m a moderate.”

Archbishop-designate Cupich, 65, became Bishop of Spokane in 2010 after leading the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota since 1998. His pastoral letters have addressed topics including the renewal of faith, the importance of the Eucharist, and pastoral planning.

Chicago’s next archbishop was born in Omaha, Nebraska to a family with a Croatian background. He is one of nine siblings.

After attending the College of St. Thomas in Minnesota and the North American College and Gregorian University in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1975. He served at several parishes.

He later completed postgraduate studies at Catholic University of America. He was ordained and installed as Bishop of Rapid City in 1998, before moving to Spokane.

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