CHICAGO – Catholics must avoid being rigid, embrace change, and show mercy, not harsh judgment, toward nontraditional families.
That was the message from Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich Sunday afternoon after receiving his pallium, a wool stole that is a piece of liturgical regalia symbolizing his connection to the pope, from the papal ambassador to the United States.
In a 15-minute homily, Cupich said bishops and other Catholics should avoid “absolutizing one particular era” by remembering the richness and diversity of their faith.
At the same time, the Church should be “open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accommodating families, particularly those who are broken, those who have suffered” and “not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire, and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”
He cited St. John XXIII, a reformer pope credited with ushering the Catholic Church into the modern era with his launch of the Second Vatican Council, and Pope Francis, highlighting his calls to protect the environment and to find new approaches to pastoral ministry.
Cupich said that John XXIII, canonized by Francis last year, “called the entire Church to a fresh appreciation of the ancient teaching of the medicine of mercy in an era when many in the Church preferred the narrow path of severity and condemnation.”
Cupich’s remarks were delivered just weeks before Pope Francis’ visit to the United States next month and the Synod on the Family at the Vatican in October, to which Cupich is expected to be named a delegate by Pope Francis.
It’s at the synod that bishops will continue a discussion of family life, including hot-button topics such as Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics, contraception, and sexuality — discussions that began last fall.
It was against this backdrop that Cupich described the Church today as “a community that goes after the lost sheep.”
“The task is not just to find them and bring them home,” he said, “but to lift them up high, to shoulder level, where they can begin to see and live a new life, a life of faith.”
Speaking to nearly 20 other bishops, dozens of priests from across Illinois and from his former diocese of Spokane, Wash., and to hundreds of worshipers gathered in the pews, Cupich said the Petrine ministry reminds us “of the whole story of God’s mighty deeds, which continues to develop in every age under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Sunday’s nearly two-hour ceremony marked a new way of conferring the pallium — a white wool stole — on archbishops.
For more than three decades, newly appointed archbishops traveled to Rome to receive the stole each June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, but Pope Francis announced changes earlier this year.
Although Cupich and other newly appointed archbishops received their palliums when they traveled to Rome in June, they do not don them until the pope’s US ambassador, or nuncio, presents the stole formally during a ceremony in the bishops’ home archdioceses.
The pallium contains six black crosses, three of which are adorned with gold pins symbolizing the nails used in Jesus’ crucifixion. Some of the wool is taken from lambs the pope blessed on the feast of St. Agnes, and the ends are colored black to mimic a lamb’s hoof, symbolic of an archbishop’s role as shepherd.
Archbishop Carlo Viganó, the nuncio, called the pallium “a symbol of unity of your archbishop with the Holy Father.”
Cupich was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the nation’s third largest archdiocese — the Chicago area boasts more than 2 million Catholics — last November. The two met for the first time during a lengthy tête-à-tête in Rome in June.