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Cupich to his new flock: Don't fear change

Archbishop Blase Cupich told the faithful that the Catholic Church shouldn’t fear change and pledged to continue efforts to help victims of priest sexual abuse and protect children as he was officially installed as the ninth archbishop of Chicago Tuesday.

In a tradition-rich installation Mass that filled Holy Name Cathedral, Pope Francis’ pick to lead Chicago’s 2.2 million Catholics also displayed the sense of humor he has a reputation for, noting, “I don’t do walking on water.”

“We all have some anxiety and hesitancy to change,” Cupich said. In referencing scripture, he noted, “Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change.”

Pope Francis is “inviting the Church to come and walk with Christ, as he is always doing something new . . . He is challenging us to recognize that Christ is always inviting us to more, to greater things.”

He added the “Church should not fear leaving the security of familiar shores of the mountaintop of our self-assuredness but rather walk into the mess.”

In his remarks, Cupich referenced the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ commitment to helping abuse victims, noting, “working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our mishandling [of abuse] is our sacred duty, as is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do.”

He also repeated the bishops’ conference call to the nation “to be what it has always promised to be, to protect the vulnerable, the poor and the weak, to treat immigrants with justice and dignity, to respect life and to be good stewards of creation. It is the invitation of Jesus, ‘Come, take the risk of being more.’”

Cupich offered words of advice and encouragement for Catholics worried about passing on the faith to the young.

“Young people have always been attracted to authenticity of life, where words match deeds,” he said. “Let’s not be afraid to let our young people know about our life with God and how it began … share with them how the Gospel has brought joy and meaning to us and transformed our lives. Such witness of personal faith many times has made the skeptic take a second look, has inspired vocations, and in my experience, animates our advocacy on behalf of human dignity with joy and compassion, purifying it of anger, harshness and fear.”

Cupich takes over from the retiring Cardinal Francis George, who has served as archbishop for more than 17 years and is battling cancer.

The installation Mass included the reading of the Apostolic Mandate by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio of the U.S., calling on Cupich to serve the archdiocese.

“With faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, and with love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the People of God in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” Cupich responded. “I resolve to serve faithfully the spiritual needs of this local church.”

George and Vigano led Cupich to the cathedra, or chair, where Cupich was presented the crozier, or staff, before he delivered his homily.

Cupich is Pope Francis’ first major U.S. appointment, and church experts say he is very much in the mold of Francis — pastoral and not an ideologue. In Cupich’s high profile position, he’s expected to help move the U.S. church beyond the culture wars that have focused on the divisive issues of abortion and homosexuality and to make a priority of serving the poor and other disenfranchised.

“Our concern with the issue of human dignity begins with the unborn, but it doesn’t end there,” Cupich said in a Chicago Sun-Times interview on the day his appointment was announced.

As if to reiterate that, in his homily Tuesday, Cupich quoted from Pope Paul VI, in saying, “Know how to listen to the groan of the poor, the candid voice of the child, the thoughtful cry of youth, the complaint of the tired worker, the sigh of the suffering and the criticism of the thinker. But never be afraid.”

He called on the Church to be faithful to its mission, to “leap into the turbulent but creative waters of life in the world with the guidance of God and the charge of the Gospel.”

Besides George, six cardinals were among those at the installation, including Cardinal James Harvey attending from Rome; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York; and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles.

The Rev. Maina Waithaka, pastor of St. Catherine Laboure in Glenview who was among the throngs of priests in attendance, said Chicagoans are getting “a person of the people.

“He looks like he will take care of the needs of the people. He’s concerned not just [with] the spiritual aspect, but also the physical aspect of the people across the archdiocese … whether they are Catholics or non-Catholics.”

He said he was most touched by the comments Cupich made concerning helping victims of priest sexual abuse.

“This is a bishop who really wants to listen, to reconcile, to heal . . . who really sees the mandate of being a shepherd, a teacher and a preacher,” Waithaka said.

The Kenya native was pleased to have had brief one-on-one time with Cupich Monday evening.

“He surprised me. He spoke to me in Swahili,” said Waithaka. “I’m like, ‘Wow.’”