VATICAN CITY — Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich was among 17 new cardinals named Sunday by Pope Francis.
Thirteen of the new cardinals are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect his successor. Three of the new cardinals are Americans, including leading U.S. moderate Cupich and Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin.
As is Francis’ tradition, the new cardinals hail from some of the most far-away and peripheral corners of the globe, with Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania getting far more representation than Europe, which has long dominated the College of Cardinals.
New to the club of the “princes” of the church are bishops from Bangui, Central African Republic; Port Louis, Mauritius and Tlalnepantla, Mexico.
Significantly only one Italian elector was named: Francis’ ambassador to “the beloved and martyred Syria,” Cardinal-elect Mario Zenari.
In a statement, Cupich, 67, said: “The news this morning that Pope Francis has named me to the College of Cardinals is both humbling and encouraging. I offer my best wishes to the other cardinals-elect . . . and I look forward to joining with them and the other cardinals as we work together with the Holy Father for the good of the church.
“When Pope Francis appointed me archbishop of Chicago more than two years ago, the people of the archdiocese welcomed me as a friend and brother and I committed wholeheartedly to serve them. The role of cardinal brings new responsibilities, but with your prayers and help, we will continue the task we have begun of renewing the church in the archdiocese and preparing it to thrive in the decades ahead.”
Francis said the 17 would be elevated at a consistory on Nov. 19, on the eve of the close to his Holy Year of Mercy.
Of the new cardinals, Cupich is very much a pastor in Francis’ likeness, emphasizing the merciful and welcoming side of the church — somewhat to the dismay of U.S. conservative Catholics. His nomination as Chicago archbishop was Francis’ first major U.S. appointment and he was a papal appointee at the pope’s big family synod last year.
“Amy and I want to congratulate Archbishop Cupich on the great honor of being named a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, and thank him for his continued service to the people of the city of Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
“In just a short time serving our city he has made a tremendous impact as a voice for the voiceless in the name of inclusion — for those living in poverty and on the margins of society, for immigrants and new Americans, and for children and families across the city and around the world. He is a light of inspiration for all of us, and a blessing to the city of Chicago. I want to thank Pope Francis for his recognition of Archbishop Cupich’s leadership, not just in the church but in our society.”
The nomination for Tobin could indicate Francis’ appreciation of Tobin’s support for American nuns. Tobin had been the No. 2 in the Vatican office for religious orders for only two years when in 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI sent him back to the U.S. to head the Indianapolis archdiocese, which had fewer than 230,000 parishioners.
The transfer was seen in some Vatican circles as being tied to Tobin’s efforts to promote dialogue and resolve tensions between the Vatican and U.S. nuns who were subject of two separate Holy See investigations. After Francis was elected, both investigations were concluded with Vatican praise for the work of the sisters.
The third American, Cardinal-elect Kevin Farrell, the outgoing bishop of Dallas, was an expected nomination. Francis in August named him to head the big new Vatican secretariat for laity, family and life issues.