The following comes from a Sept. 22 posting on Whispers in the Loggia.

,,,,the principal Stateside force behind the nod was Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley OFM Cap., now Pope Francis’ chief North American adviser as the continent’s lone member of the pontiff’s Gang of Nine. The coordinator of the reform group, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga – clearly impressed with Cupich’s June turn after his own in Washington – is said to have joined the early push for the Spokane prelate, which was reportedly agreed to by Francis’ lead American on the Congregation for Bishops, the capital’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl. (Beyond the committee work of the USCCB, Cupich and Wuerl would likewise have solid ties through the National Catholic Education Association, whose board the former currently chairs. Given Chicago’s boast of the nation’s largest diocesan school system, several major Catholic universities – including the US’ largest, the Vincentian-run DePaul – as well as two immensely influential graduate centers at Mundelein and the Catholic Theological Union, the confluence of that local context and the choice is a significant aspect which should not be underestimated.)

From the outset of the process, it was made clear that the Pope was driven to “own” his selection for the nation’s third-largest diocese, quite possibly the only one Francis will be able to make in the US church’s topmost rank. The way things have panned out, he’s done precisely that.

Even as the expedited timing helped amplify the shock of the appointment across ideological lines, the move’s early arrival has an added ramification for the Pope’s wider plans. At its November meeting in Baltimore, the USCCB is scheduled to elect the bench’s three delegates to the October 2015 Ordinary Synod, which will discuss concrete proposals to improve the church’s pastoral care and outreach to families.

As the nominations from the body which form the Synod ballot currently remain pending, it’s a safe bet that Cupich – who garnered sufficient support to make last year’s slate of ten nominees for the conference’s top two posts – can block out his calendar for the three-week meeting next year.

All that said, the Chicago pick simply continues Francis’ leitmotif of finessed, pastorally-grounded major appointments in the US, which the Pope began a year ago this week by shipping Bishop Bernard Hebda from upper Michigan’s 70,000-member diocese of Gaylord to the 1.3 million-member archdiocese of Newark, a crucial, wildly complex posting in the nation’s largest media market.

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Forty-eight hours after his selection became official, the nominee has been on something of a blitz while visiting his family in Omaha, telling the National Catholic Reporter that he saw his role “as not just telling [people] what the Gospel says but bringing them to an encounter with Christ and accompanying them,” and answering a question on the recent controversies over Eucharistic sanctions from CBS’ Chicago affiliate by saying that “we can’t politicize the Communion rail.” The comment came while Cupich was still vested after celebrating Sunday Mass (below) at the boyhood parish his grandparents helped build.

Ironically enough, while earlier last week saw another deeply polarized yet just as energized mix of reactions to reports that Francis intended to transfer Cardinal Raymond Burke to the post of patron of the Order of Malta – normally a sinecure for a retired red-hat after a distinguished career – it’s worth noting that Burke and Cupich were classmates in Rome before their ordinations in the summer of 1975.

In the wake of the latest frenzy to surround the Wisconsin-born “chief justice,” it wasn’t lost on some that word of the Malta move was first broken by outlets which have long championed Burke and the fearless mix of liturgical traditionalism and political conservatism he’s come to embody both among admirers and critics of his approach. For the latter’s part, meanwhile, while most coverage of the Chicago appointment has deemed Cupich a “moderate,” the descriptor was greeted skeptically by one veteran of the USCCB’s centrist bloc, who said that “if anything,” the archbishop-elect “is left-of-center.” As another of the group noted, “Blase wasn’t always a progressive,” but whatever shift he underwent took place well before the current pontificate. (Along the same lines, in a post on the Mother of All Episcopal Blogs, a longtime Cupich friend – Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg – placed the nominee in an ecclesiological line with the US’ premier center-progressives of the last several decades, citing among them the “Lion” of San Francisco John Raphael Quinn, Cincinnati’s retired Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk and the new archbishop’s predecessor in Spokane, Bishop William Skylstad…..)

To read the entire posting, click here.