The man who will become the new leader of Chicago’s Catholics was welcomed to town Monday with a Chicago Bears cap, scarf and handkerchief.
Bishop Blase Cupich of the Spokane, Washington, diocese was in northwest suburban Lincolnshire to attend a conference of the Chicago-based Catholic Extension, an organization that raises money to help Catholics in the nation’s poorest communities.
Cupich, who has served on the organization’s board since 2009, had planned to attend the conference long before Pope Francis on Saturday named him to succeed Cardinal Francis George as the leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago and its 2.2 million Catholics,
Cupich quipped that to learn about his new post, he would start reading the sports pages.
“I’m going to love this city,” he said.
He dodged a question about whether women should become priests, but he said, “The blessings of a vocation are not just a matter of numbers, they are also a matter of the quality of faith of the young men who are coming forward.”
He also said he had yet to make up his mind about whether he would live in the cardinal’s mansion. “I’m going to take my time to make that decision. I’m going to see where I can be most effective.”
After a whirlwind of stops throughout the area Saturday after the announcement of his new job, Cupich said he returned home to Spokane on Sunday to celebrate Mass at his home parish.
“I just wanted to go home and celebrate and also to bring home the fact [to family and friends] that I planned and selected the date of my installation with them in mind,” he said.
Asked what his greatest strength is, Cupich said: “That I’ve been raised with a very palpable sense of the presence of Christ in my life.”
As an example, he cited the time he spent in prayer before meeting with the media in Chicago on Saturday and Monday.
“I spent a good amount of time in prayer just to let Christ remind me that things will work out, that even though I know I’m inadequate — when I’m public like this I can make terrible mistakes and say things that are not appropriate — I asked just for peace of heart and inspiration to say the right thing.”
Cupich, when discussing the Catholic Extension’s mission to the poor, said society should not take poverty for granted.
“Really what so often inequality does is convince people who are wealthier that the normal course of accepting inequality is OK. But that gnaws at our spirits, because when we allow consumerism and materialism to so invade our lives that we get to the point where we’re indifferent to the poor, not only are the poor hurt but our spirits are as well.”
Cupich will address the Catholic Extension conference — attended by 80 U.S. Bishops —later this week and will speak on the economic implications of Pope Francis’ “Joy of the Gospel,” released last year. In the 224-page document, Francis shared his view on a range of issues from abortion to poverty to the role of women in the church, and he criticized trickledown economics.