Pope Francis will on Saturday 19 September 2014 name Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Washington, a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing, to be the next archbishop of Chicago.
Cupich was ordained a priest in 1975 and has experience as both a Catholic schoolteacher and pastor. In 1998, Pope John Paul II named him bishop of Rapid City, S.D., and Pope Benedict XVI moved him to Spokane in 2010. His family heritage is Croatian, on both maternal and paternal sides – his grandparents were the ones to make the US a home in the early part of the Twentieth century, never losing their Croatian identity and roots as the family grew, multiplied and blended into the “American” life.
Blase Cupich visited Croatia in March of this year, not missing to visit the house in the village of Ladanje Donje, Parish of Vinica, near Varazdin, where his grandmother was born and lived and from where in 1917 as a 17-year old girl seeking a better life she headed to America (United States). In Nabraska Barbara Bahun married Ivan Majhen (who came from Karlovac, Croatia) and they had four children, including the daughter Maria who married Blaz (Blase) Cupich, and they had nine children, including Blase Joseph, the new Archbishop of Chicago.
Via this link you can access the video from Archbishop Blase Cupich’s visit to Croatia this year in which he talks, among other things, about his Croatian heritage (video in English and Croatian).
When Archbishop Joseph Kurtz was elected president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2012, then Spokane’s Bishop Blase Cupich said that the decision reflected the pope’s desire for pastoral leaders.
“Pope Francis doesn’t want cultural warriors, he doesn’t want ideologues. That’s the new paradigm for us, and it’s making many of us think,” he said to the New York Times.
In the run up to the 2008 US presidential election, Cupich, who was then bishop of Rapid City, S.D., wrote an essay for the America magazine in which he reminded Catholics of church teaching that deems racism a “sin.” “To allow racism to reign in our hearts and to determine our choice in this solemn moment for our nation is to cooperate with one of the great evils that has afflicted our society. In the words of Brothers and Sisters to Us, “It mocks the words of Jesus, ‘Treat others the way you would have them treat you.’”
Prior to the Washington State voting on same-sex marriage in November 2012, in August, Cupich wrote a letter to be read at Masses which was remarkable for its comparatively affirming language even though the line that was to be taken by all bishops was to vote against the referendum on same sex marriage. He praised those who are ”motivated by compassion for those who have shown courage in refusing to live in the fear of being rejected for their sexual orientation.”
Also in line with the pope’s focus on the poor, Cupich spoke at a Washington, D.C. conference in June this year against economic libertarianism, calling inequality, “a powder keg that is as dangerous as the environmental crisis the world is facing today.” (The Washington Post article, 3 June 2014)
Cupich gained a national platform in the US when he was tapped to lead the bishops’ efforts in implementing new policies to protect children from sex abuse, even criticising the bishops themselves.
“Catholics have been hurt by the moral failings of some priests, but they have been hurt and angered even more by bishops who failed to put children first. People expect religious leaders above all to be immediate and forthright in taking a strong stand in the face of evil, such as the harm done to children and young people by sexual abuse,” he wrote in 2010.
Such snippets from Archbishop Blase Cupich’s public appearances bring him forth as a prelate of the Catholic Church’s progressive path into the life that we call modern, but never to abandon the spiritual and moral grounds that make us human and compassionate as citizens of the world and particularly Christianity. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)