CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 20: Archbishop-Elect Blase Cupich helps Francis Cardinal George from the lecturn during a press conference on September 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. This is the first time in the history of the Chicago Archdiocese that a new leader has been appointed while the former is still alive.
Scott Olson—Getty Images
October 8, 2014 6:35 PM EDT

The rap on Blase Cupich is that he’s a Pope Francis kind of guy. Which is to say that he’s politically moderate, opposed to the lavish lifestyle that some of his peers have formerly embraced (in Spokane, his post since 2010, he lived on a seminary campus and owned no furniture), and has what is often referred to as “a heart for the poor.” In his few public remarks since the Holy Father tapped Cupich to be the new Archbishop of Chicago beginning in November, he has been understandably muted about the task before him. He was chosen “to serve the needs of the people,” Cupich said at a press conference, characterizing his role more as “pastor” than as “messenger.”

But Cupich’s role encompasses far more than that. He will lead 2 million Catholics in the third-largest diocese in America. And Cupich is the Pope’s first leadership choice among the four most important posts in the American church – the archbishops of Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago. His elevation signals where Pope Francis intends to take the American church.

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