In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Spokane. In 2014, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Francis George as Archbishop of Chicago and named Cupich as his successor.
Cupich's episcopal career has not been without controversy. In Rapid City, before Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum liberalized priests’ ability to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, he prohibited children from being confirmed for receiving First Communion at such a Mass. He also prohibited a Traditional Latin Mass community from celebrating the Paschal Triduum according to the 1962 missal.
In Spokane in 2011, Cupich told priests and seminarians in his diocese to refrain from participating in demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood clinics or supporting “40 Days for Life.” In response to a pro-life uproar, the diocese issued a statement clarifying that “the Bishop recognizes that a given priest in good conscience may feel the need to participate in the vigils and he should never be forced to go against a good and informed conscience. The Bishop only asked that all priests prayerfully reflect on what he has told them, commit themselves to making teaching effectively their first priority and keep in mind the irreplaceable power of the witness of their unity with each other.”
It is still unknown how the then-Bishop of Spokane got the attention of Pope Francis, but the pope made his support for Cupich evident rather quickly.
In 2015, he named Cupich to participate in the Synod of Bishops after he had failed to be elected to the synod by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.) At the synod, he supported the controversial proposal of granting access to Holy Communion, in limited circumstances, to the divorced-and-civilly-remarried. Following the synod, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia drew criticism and confusion over what was perceived as lack of clarity on the issue.
In 2016, Pope Francis named him a member of the Congregation for Bishops, an appointment that was viewed as a move to replace Cardinal Raymond Burke, whose membership at the dicastery was not renewed.
Later that year, Cupich was made a cardinal. Immediately after his elevation, the pope tasked him with several missions, openly expressing his support for him and his theological and pastoral positions. Cupich was particularly asked to spearhead the defense and promotion of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia in the United States.
His popularity with Pope Francis, however, was never reflected inside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he has served on several committees, but has been systematically defeated in every major election or proposal.
According to the sources consulted by CNA, if Cardinal Cupich indeed ends up leading the Congregation of Bishops, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, who will turn 67 on February 5, is the most likely candidate to become his successor in Chicago.
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