Pope Francis on Thursday named Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago to the Vatican’s all-important Congregation for Bishops, in effect positioning the Chicago prelate to help shape the next generation of bishops in the United States and around the world. The Congregation for Bishops is composed of roughly 30 senior prelates from around the world, and is the body that submits recommendations for new bishops’ appointments to the pope. Although the final decision is always up to the pontiff, with relatively few exceptions, popes generally accept the panel’s recommendations. As a result, the Congregation for Bishops is widely considered among the two or three most influential departments in the Vatican, and generally appointing someone as a member is a sign that they have the favor of the present pope. The congregation is presently led by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, who was appointed to the role by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.