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New archbishop will continue work for immigration reform

archbishop cupich
Archbishop Blase Cupich

Pope Francis named Bishop Blase Joseph Cupich of the Spokane Diocese as archbishop of Chicago, succeeding Cardinal Francis Eugene George, OMI. 

Bishop Cupich, who served in Spokane since 2010, received word in a phone call when he was in Munich on the way home from a meeting in Ukraine.

He will travel between Spokane and Chicago before his installation on Nov. 18, remaining in full authority as bishop of Spokane until then.  A diocesan administrator will be named, because the process of choosing his successor may take nine months to a year. 

About 2.3 million Catholics live in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the third largest archdiocese in the country.  There are 90,000 parishioners in the Spokane diocese.  Bishop Cupich will have a staff of 300 there, in contrast with 12 in Spokane.

In Chicago, he will continue to improve his Spanish, because 44 percent of the parishioners are Hispanic. He has appreciated working in this region with Hispanics who “work hard so their families can survive.”

He believes immigration reform to give legal status will address complaints some people raise.

“Immigrants do work others would not do.  They pay taxes and contribute to the common good,” Bishop Cupich said. “Growers want immigration reform so they can have a secure labor force.”

In Chicago, he will look for ways to work as partners with labor, business, government and faith leaders to “address serious problems,” such as immigration reform, which he said has been held hostage by partisanship.  He seeks to bring people together in dialogue on such issues.

“I will miss the generosity of people here to the poor,” he said, “and the social bonds across faith and ideological perspectives as people work together for the common good.”

During his four years in Spokane, he has supported the works of Catholic Charities in serving the poor and vulnerable, often volunteering to serve coffee at the House of Charity, said Anna Marie Byrd, Catholic Charities Spokane development director.

“He has moved our diocese to financial stability, paid debts, managed a difficult sex abuse crisis and subsequent bankruptcy, while focusing on the Gospel message to serve the poor, promoting Catholic education and healing the church,” she said.

The grandson of Croatian immigrants, he grew up as one of nine children in Omaha, Neb. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., and did further studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1975, and ordained as a bishop in 1998 to serve the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D.

With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he chairs the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, and has shared in work on young people, Native Americans, sexual abuse, liturgy and more.

For information, call 358-7340.

Copyright © October 2014 - The Fig Tree