Last Sunday, October 9th, Pope Francis announced at the conclusion of the Sunday Noon Angelus Prayers from his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square that he had appointed 17 new cardinals. Among the new cardinals is our own Archbishop Blase Joseph Cupich. While this was expected it is not automatic. In Chicago, we tend to forget this point of church leadership and life. The most important point is that Archbishop Cupich is our BISHOP. He is an Archbishop which means that he leads a large diocese. The title of Archbishop and Cardinal are both honorary and do not include a pay raise although there are some odd perks regarding the color of attire, title and number of tassels. Cardinal Cupich will receive the symbol of his office (red hat/biretta pictured above) on Saturday, November 19th.
What is a cardinal? A cardinal is a senior church official and usually an ordained bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. As a bit of interesting church trivia...a man didn’t have to be a priest or a bishop to become a cardinal. The last layman was Teodolfo Mertel who worked in the Vatican Bank. He was made a cardinal in 1858. In 1917, Church law was changed so that you must at least be a priest to be made a cardinal. The cardinals of the Church are collectively known as the College of Cardinals. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College. Most have additional duties, such as leading a diocese or archdiocese or managing a department of the Vatican Offices. A cardinal's primary duty is electing the pope when the Papacy becomes vacant due to the death or abdication of the Pope. During the sede vacante (the period between a pope's death or abdication and the election of his successor), the day-to-day governance of the Holy See is in the hands of the College of Cardinals. The right to enter the conclave of cardinals where the pope is elected is limited to those who have not reached the age of 80 years by the day the vacancy occurs.
Why is this important? Ultimately, Pope Francis has placed a great deal of trust in Archbishop Cupich, first by appointing him as our Archbishop. Now with this additional title, Cardinal Cupich will also assume a role in assisting the Pope to serve and to govern the Church. Cardinal Cupich has already been appointed to the Congregation for Bishops. In this additional role he will assist the Pope in considering suitable candidates to be ordained as bishops. Cardinal Cupich will travel to Rome for a monthly meeting about 9 months of the year.
On a personal note, our new cardinal was a young monsignor when I first met him as the Rector of the Pontifical Seminary Josephinum which I attended. I am very happy for him and know personally that he will do a very good job in continuing to serve the Archdiocese of Chicago and now as Cardinal, in also serving Pope Francis.
With you a disciple, for you a priest,
Father Kenneth Anderson