Chicago’s archbishop says no to guns in churches

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Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich said Tuesday that he supports banning pistol-packers from the pews in his churches.

“I know that in many dioceses there are policies that firearms are not permitted in churches,and I think that’s that’s only reasonable,” Cupich said in response to a Chicago Sun-Times question at a news conference.

Cupich, who was named Chicago’s Roman Catholic archbishop last year, said he wasn’t sure whether the archdiocese has a policy on guns.

“I need to ask questions of people longstanding in the archdiocese about what the policies are,” he said after a visit with inmates in the Cook County Jail. “But I surely would be supportive of not having any firearms in our churches.”

The executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the policy arm of Catholic bishops, told the Sun-Times last year that the decision to allow or prohibit handguns was left up to individual churches.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger said earlier this month that he unsuccessfully lobbied the late Cardinal Francis George to declare all of the churches in the Chicago archdiocese “gun-free zones.”

George even said he talked to priests who said they wanted concealed-carry permits, according to Pfleger.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Atlanta recently banned guns from churches there. Pfleger said he sent Cupich a letter to point that out.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese of Chicago could not be reached to discuss the archdiocese’s policy on firearms.

Cupich made his remarks on guns after a tour of the jail with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Cupich said he met “people who are trapped in a system where they are not able to have their cases heard in a timely manner.”

The archbishop said he supports legislation that would create a pilot program to resolve some criminal cases more quickly. The so-called “Rocket Docket” bill passed the General Assembly earlier this year and is awaiting the signature of the governor.

The legislation, envisioned by Dart, would create a two-year program requiring the courts to dispose of low-level cases, including retail theft and criminal trespassing, within 30 days of their assignment —down from 120 days now.

“There are people who have made mistakes and are looking for ways to move forward,” said Cupich, who previously visited the jail on Christmas when he celebrated Mass for inmates.

Cupich was echoing Pope Francis, who told inmates last year during a visit to a prison in Italy: “We all make mistakes in life. And we all must ask forgiveness and make a journey of rehabilitation so we don’t make them again.”

Cupich said he spoke Tuesday to drug addicts who hope to “emerge from the slavery of their addiction and get on with their lives.”

He pledged the support of the archdiocese to help inmates get on their feet after they return to society. The archdiocese already has strong ministries in the jails in Cook and Lake counties, he said.

“But for the grace of God go I as I look at these people,” he said.

Cupich urged friends and family members of inmates to visit them in jail. Too often, inmates go long periods without any visits, he said.

For many of the inmates, Cupich’s visit was “the greatest thing that’s happened to them,” Dart said.

Some inmates asked the archbishop to pray for them. They asked him to send messages to their mothers and fiancées.

They even asked him to sign their Bibles.

“It’s a bestseller, so why not?” Cupich quipped.

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