Bishop Blase Cupich, who is seen as a moderate, will lead the U.S.'s third largest diocese with more than 2.2 million parishioners. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Pope Francis, in his first major appointment in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, on Saturday (September 20) named Bishop Blase Cupich as the new archbishop of Chicago. Cupich, 65, who is seen as a moderate and is currently the bishop of Spokane, Washington, succeeds the more conservative Cardinal Francis George, 77, who is retiring. Chicago, with more than 2.2 million parishioners, is the third-largest U.S. diocese by population and its archbishop has traditionally played a major role in the American Church hierarchy and in relations with national political leaders. Cupich gently brushed off comments about his reportedly moderate political views, which some church watchers have speculated could indicate a shift in focus for the Roman Catholic church. Discussing the Pope's decision to select him, Cupich said, "I think his (Pope Francis) priority is not to send a message but send a bishop and that's what he is sending here. Someone to serve the needs of people so I think I wouldn't want to, in any way, to overly politicize or put this in a different context. Cupich did weigh in on immigration reform saying it was imperative. "I don't to dance around the issue that we need comprehensive immigration reform. And so I wanted to take this opportunity to urge that again. Every day we delay it is a day too long and we should move on today," Cupich said. The city's archbishops are typically elevated to the rank of cardinal, meaning Cupich would be able to enter a conclave to elect a pope after Francis's death or resignation. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Cupich studied at Catholic universities in the United States and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Crux, a major U.S. Catholic website associated with the Boston Globe, said Cupich is "widely viewed as a moderate voice among Catholic bishops (and he) often eschews cultural battles in favor of dialogue and engagement." In this sense, he is in line with Francis' call for compassion rather than condemnation or confrontation on issues such as abortion and same-sex couples. Asked at a news conference in Chicago about his reputation as a moderate, Cupich said on Saturday he did not believe that Francis' choice of him sent a political message. "It's not my agenda, it's not what I feel. 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," Cupich said. In a dramatically blunt interview with an Italian Jesuit journal in 2013, Francis said the Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice "like a house of cards." Cupich will formally take leadership of the diocese in two months from George, who is undergoing treatment for cancer and other ailments and said he needs to focus on his health.