ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop Blase Cupich has been appointed to the Congregation of Bishops, the department within the Roman Curia that manages the selection of new bishops.
In an announcement Thursday, Pope Francis selected the archbishop of Chicago to fill a vacancy within the congregation created by the departure of Cdl. William Levada, who resigned from the position only weeks ago. The appointment being effective immediately, Cupich will join Cdl. Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., also selected by the Pope, as one of two American representatives to the curial office.
"I am humbled by the Holy Father's trust and confidence in me," Cupich declared in a statement Thursday. "While my primary responsibility remains here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, I look forward to joining other members of the Congregation for Bishops to serve the Pope and the Church in this ministry."
The 26-member body, currently led by Canadian cardinal Marc Oullet, is generally regarded as one of the more powerful entities within the Roman Curia, as it plays a key role in the selection of prelates in the more than 2,000 dioceses within the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. The Pope, however, has the final decision regarding the appointment of any bishop.
Cupich's appointment marks the newest happening in the Congregation's overhaul under Pope Francis, who, since 2013, has named 11 cardinals, archbishops and bishops to the office, in addition to confirming the nominations of 18 others.
Since 2013, two American prelates, Cdls. Raymond Burke and Justin Rigali, have been removed from the Vatican body, both of whom were notably active under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, with Cdl. Rigali serving as secretary for the Congregation.
Since his appointment as head of the archdiocese of Chicago in 2014, Abp. Cupich has rapidly garnered attention both at home and abroad, having been chosen to participate in last year's Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family and gaining an appointment to head the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue.
His meteoric rise, however, has not come without controversy. Most recently, in the wake of the Orlando terror attack that left 49 dead at a gay club, the archbishop declared both he and the archdiocese of Chicago stand with "the whole lesbian and gay community."
"For you here today," Cupich wrote, "and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you."
The archbishop went on to blame "easy access to deadly weapons" as the cause of the mass shooting.
While serving as one of 45 bishops appointed by the Pope to last year's Synod, Cupich made headlines for remarks regarding active homosexuals and those in adulterous relationships, hinting at the possibility of opening reception of Holy Communion to them. Speaking at a briefing in the Holy See Press Office, the archbishop noted he often visits with the "marginalized" in Chicago, which, he claims, includes "the divorced and remarried" and "gays and lesbian individuals, also couples."
Continuing, the archbishop stated,
When people come to a decision in good conscience, then our job with the Church is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable, and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I've always done that.
In August the archbishop came under fire for an op-ed published in the Chicago Tribune where he, referencing videos showing Planned Parenthood physicians discussing the market for organs harvested in abortions, stated the dismemberment of babies in abortion mills is no less appalling than the treatment experienced by those "who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice."