In a powerful signal of the direction he wants the October Synod on the Family to be guided, Pope Francis has reportedly named Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich as a special delegate to the Synod. Catholic News Agency and other sources reported the appointment, which has yet to be confirmed.
The US bishops in November named a four-person synod delegation that included the conservative archbishops Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, as well as the president and vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
When the bishops chose their delegation at a closed door session of their plenary last November, they also named as alternates Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the bishops’ main spokesman in their fight against same-sex marriage, and Archbishop Cupich, a strong advocate of social justice whose appointment to Chicago was seen very much as a personal choice of Pope Francis.
Boston cardinal and the American church leader closest to Pope Francis, Sean O’Malley, was reportedly a nominee in November but was not appointed. The Pope could still appoint him as a delegate.
After last year’s extraordinary synod, when issues regarding the kind of welcome that should be given to gays in the Church, and whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive Communion, were fiercely disputed, Archbishop Chaput said “the public image that came across was one of confusion” and “confusion is of the devil”.
As well as Archbishop Cupich, Pope Francis has reportedly appointed another US bishop to the Synod, Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio. An African-American, Bishop Murry is a Jesuit like Pope Francis. If these appointments are confirmed, they will show a tilt in the kind of balance Pope Francis is looking for at the summit.
Murry and Cupich took part in a conference on “solidarity and faith” on 15 June, at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO (the largest federation of trade unions in the US) along with the Archbishop of Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl and other bishops seen as supporters of the Francis approach to social justice. Cardinal Wuerl serves on the body that plans the Synod, and with fellow American Cardinal Timothy Dolan will attend in that capacity.
Wuerl told trade union leaders on 15 June that organised labour is recognised by the Catholic Church as one of the “instruments of solidarity and justice”. The conference was the first in years that featured prominent Catholic leaders.
The debate at the 4-24 October synod will follow Francis’ first visit to the US next month, a trip that is also expected to highlight many of the issues that generated heated debate last October. But he will apparently have a warm welcome from the trade unions. “The American labour movement is at the disposal of the Pope,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told the June meeting. “We will do anything that he needs to be done to make his visit a total success.” Every bishops’ conference has elected delegates for the Synod, but Pope Francis has also named dozens of additional participants, with varying views. These latest appointments are being seen as a signal regarding the reforms he would like to see.
Above: Archbishop Cupich