Archbishop Blase Cupich installed: Cardinal Francis George retires
By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago
At this point in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Catholics have spent the last two months or so welcoming Archbishop Blase Cupich who has taken over in order that Cardinal George may finally enjoy his retirement. In this time, it is certain that Catholics and non-Catholics have been comparing the two. In fact, the comparison game had started the very first moment the appointment was made public. Yet, Catholics and non-Catholics should follow the lead of Archbishop Cupich on this.
Namely, when Archbishop Cupich was appointed and appeared before the entire city of Chicago in the September 2014 press conference, one of the first things he did was to acknowledge the accomplishments of his predecessor, Cardinal George, on all levels of his ministry. Then, on the eve before his official installation as the ninth archbishop of Chicago, Archbishop Cupich gave the homily in which he desired that his first words as the new leader of the archdiocese to be "Thank you, Cardinal George." Archbishop Cupich did not stop there. Before the end of the Mass of Installation at which he presided, Archbishop Cupich said that he wanted his last words to be the same as his first, "Thank you, Cardinal George." At both times, Cardinal George received an overwhelming standing ovation.
Then, at the same Mass of Installation before giving the final blessing, Archbishop Cupich mandated that Cardinal George's name continue to be mentioned after his own during the Eucharistic prayer at every Mass to be celebrated in the Archdiocese of Chicago. According to the norms that guide the celebration of the Eucharist, permission is given to mention the names of the auxiliary bishops or the coadjutor bishop (the one appointed to take over upon the death of the ordinary bishop) in the Eucharistic prayer. But, it is not written that the name of the bishop emeritus should be mentioned.
Fidelity to the Church's teaching
In this, Archbishop Cupich has modeled for the Catholics and non-Catholics of Chicago a good example. Namely, the tendency of human nature is to forget, downplay, or even ignore the contributions of the predecessor thus letting the successor become the star of the show outshining the one who came before him even while the latter is still alive . Despite the criticisms that Cardinal George had received in his career as Archbishop of Chicago, Archbishop Cupich would not allow anyone to forget the great good that the Cardinal has given to the life of the Church. While it is obvious that there is a difference in style between the two of them, Archbishop Cupich did not want anyone on any level—Church, media, civic authority—to forget about Cardinal George as if he were already dead and gone.
With all of that being said, rather than comparing the two and giving focus on what makes them different, Catholics and non-Catholics ought to follow the radical principle of focusing on what makes them the same. Oftentimes, when people focus on what makes people different from one another, the divisions between people become bigger and the gap between them grows wider. It is in giving emphasis on how two sides are similar that the human society begins to build bridges.
So what do Archbishop Cupich and Cardinal George have in common? The answer is simple. They are both equally driven and motivated by the Church's mission to preach and teach. Beyond the labels of moderate and conservative, both of these men love the Church with an equal passion and operate out of a fidelity to the Church's teaching both with the same degree of intensity and conviction.
If there is anything that can be said about Cardinal George, it is that he simply desired that people know the faith they espoused in order that it may become the ground of every Catholic's life because it is rooted in the joy of the gospel. Likewise, Archbishop Cupich is also driven by the mission of the Church. He has similar approaches as Pope Francis in that he gives focus and attention on the loving mercy of God that seeks to bring all people into unity with Himself. Both of these approaches are not contrary to the Church's mission but simply complement one another and complete one another. Again, it is the mission of the Church which both Cardinal George and Archbishop Cupich have in the forefront of their minds that guides and directs their respective ministries.
As the world marks a new calendar year, it ought to be the hope of every Christian and every religious person to seek to build the bridges that will bring more people together rather than cause more separation. As Catholics, in particular, continue to welcome Archbishop Cupich and give thanks to Cardinal George, may the love of God and love for God and His People guide the work of all in this coming year.