Cardinal Cupich: The church must stand against the rise of xenophobia

Archbishop Blase Cupich speaks at a news conference after arriving Nov. 13 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

In an interview with America following the end of the synod on young adults, Cardinal Blase Cupich spoke about the synod’s method of “synodality,” the sexual and other forms of abuse of minors, the role of women in the church and migration. He also spoke about the rise of xenophobia, the demonization of people by political leaders across the world that can lead to violence and how the church should respond to these developments in a prophetic way.

Speaking on Oct. 28, after the synod ended and following the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, the cardinal recalled that “migration” was one of the synod’s biggest issues.

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"In the United States and around the world there is a growing xenophobia, and young people are repulsed by the efforts to demonize people.”

The synod’s final document declared that in regards to the issue of migration, “the church must be prophetic.” Commenting on this, Cardinal Cupich said, “we heard this from a lot of young people who know their peers who are migrating because of war and poverty, but also now because of the environment and climate change. People are going to have to leave their homes because they can no longer live there. So they want the church to take a leadership role and be the voice for the voiceless.”

He noted that “in the United States and around the world there is a growing xenophobia, and young people are repulsed by the efforts to demonize people, which only diminishes the human dignity of these people who are just trying to better their life.”

Referring to the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, the cardinal said that while the tragedy was anti-Semitic, it “was also anti-immigrant” because “he went after them also because of the immigration work they were doing.”

The cardinal said, “this very corrosive rhetoric against people who are different because of the way they worship, where they come from, or their race, is both unhealthy and unjust, and it eventually bubbles up into actual acts of violence—as we see in this case where a man felt justified to go in and kill 11 people in a synagogue.”

Earlier in the day, at the Angelus, Pope Francis had denounced the “inhuman violence” in Pittsburgh and said, “we must quench those hotbeds of hate.” Cardinal Cupich agreed. But he also said that more needs to be done: “Yes, we need to quench them, but we must also forcefully speak to elected officials that they should not, in any way, give a signal that justifies that kind of language or action. This is the problem we are facing.”

Cardinal Cupich noted that as a church, we must call out the xenophobic rhetoric of political leaders.

He noted that as a church, we must call out the xenophobic rhetoric of political leaders. He said, “It is not just quenching this anger that is there. The church actually has the responsibility to name bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism and call out those who are elected officials when they attempt to exploit the fears of people that eventually erupt into outbursts of violence.”

The Chicago cardinal recalled that the synod also discussed the abuse of minors by clergy and said, “I come from a country where the abuse issue is very much alive, and for good reasons. We have to make sure that we are creating a safe environment for young people and reaching out to young people who have been hurt, but also trying to rebuild trust by being transparent and holding people accountable. We have to do all of those things.”

Young people at the synod gave voice to other issues too, he said, including “how the adult world is making decisions that put their future at risk, decisions regarding immigration, the exploitation of their natural resources in a corrupt way, joblessness, the turning to war and military intervention to solve conflicts that end up leaving generations afterward paying the price of that war, and the great poverty around the world.” At the synod, he heard from young people “who live in island communities. They realize that in 10 or 20 years some of the islands are going to be gone because of the climate change and the continuing rise of the sea levels.” He said, “The young people asked the bishops to speak to those issues, to lend our voice so that their concerns can be heard.”

Cardinal Cupich recalled that the issue of the role of women in the church “came up quite a lot” and “was raised not just by women, but also by the young men in the synod.” He rejoiced that the final document “talked about women being involved in decision-making in the life of the church.” He considered this “a big step forward” but recognized that “more needs to be done.” He recalled that during his 20 years as a bishop in three dioceses, “I’ve always had women in my administrations, and I can tell you that they have saved me from making some dumb and boneheaded decisions; they kind of pulled me back from the precipice and gave me a different insight. They look at life differently, they have a different way of approaching things, and I think the church needs to benefit from that.”

He said opening roles in decision-making to women in the church “is not just a matter of tolerating women. That should never be the approach. It should be a matter of seeing that women look at life in a way that’s a gift.” Pope Francis has already placed some women in such roles in the Roman Curia, he added, but “more needs to be done.”

[Explore America's in-depth coverage of the Synod on Young Adults.]

Asked what he has done in Chicago on this front, the cardinal said he has placed women “in important positions. A woman runs the Archdiocese of Chicago on a day-to-day basis, she’s the chief operations officer,” which means that “on a daily basis, when it comes to any institutional decision about the Archdiocese of Chicago, she’s the one who controls it. She works with me, she keeps me informed, but she’s also one that takes the initiative to bring about the organization that’s needed in the archdiocese, from finance to personnel to legal issues, communications. She does a terrific job.”

"The church actually has the responsibility to name bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism and call out those who are elected officials when they attempt to exploit the fears of people."

He pointed out, too, that “many bishops have women in their dioceses in key decision-making roles and in most parishes in the United States” and noted that “the majority of the people involved in parish life are women.” He recalled that the synod’s final document says “we need to put women in positions, not merely in positions where they’re doing work but where they have an input in decision-making. That’s what’s new about this document.”

As he prepared to return to Chicago, he told America, “I go away from the synod with a great deal of hope because the young people had a chance to see firsthand how the church can be church for them going forward into the future. They were given a vision of what church life could be through the lens of synodality.” Many young people told him “that they never thought of the church in these terms” and that “it excites them about how they can continue to develop church life through their participation, by their interaction with each other, by attending to the Spirit that is working in their midst.”

He said many young people told him they were moved at seeing that Pope Francis “has this very creative, imaginative understanding of the church, that they had never thought of before.” Pope Francis said “the first fruit” of the synod is not the final document; rather it is the model, the method of listening, discerning and reaching conclusions for pastoral ministry. Asked if the synod method is a model that can be transferred to the U.S. church, the cardinal said, “I see this as possible in my own diocese of Chicago. Right now we are in the middle of a process called ‘Renew My Church,’ in which we begin first of all by listening to people, having them involved.” He believes “the approach that we have had at the synod is particularly relevant to what we’re doing in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It enriches what we are already doing.” He said, “Pope Francis has given us a far deeper understanding of why this is so important, of why this is the way of the Spirit that we probably didn’t appreciate as fully in the past.”

Cardinal Cupich attended the 2015 synod on the family but found “this was altogether different,” and “the difference was made by the young people participating.” Throughout the synod, he said, “they engaged us in the coffee breaks, they made interventions, they listened to the interventions of the bishops, they clapped, applauded, they were present for the voting.” He added, “Throughout the synod a dialogue was happening with young people in all of these different ways, so that the bishops were not just making decisions on their own, living in their own bubble, but they were being engaged and engaging these young people in a way that brought a freshness to our deliberations that we have never seen in a synod before.”

Reflecting on this synod and previous ones, the Chicago archbishop remarked, “the international quality of the synod is something that we have really not unpacked.” He explained, “there are great strengths in that [international quality] because we hear from other people, but it also shows that there’s a potential for different views that, if we do not negotiate them correctly, could divide us.” So, at the synod, “we always have to keep in tension the fact that people do have different experiences of life and church that are valid, and yet at the same time we have to look for a way that we remain together.”

For this reason, he said, “the principle of the papacy is so very important in the life of the church because we have one who allows us, gives us the freedom to have those differences expressed, but also doing so in such a way that it keeps us together.” He recalled that Pope Francis “constantly insisted that we approach our interaction with open minds and open hearts,” but then the synod fathers have to learn “how do we deal with the diversity and the tensions and yet at the same time realize that even more important than the differences is the unity that we share?” At this point he noted that “the first mark of the church, which we express in the creed, is that we are ‘one’,” and he emphasized that “it is the pope who guarantees that unity.”

Reflecting back on this synod, he commented, “It seems to me that we are going to have differences because we come from different places, but I would say that everyone in that room had a commitment to unity; nobody wanted to break that unity even if they didn’t get their way, or the vote didn’t go the way they voted.” He considered this fundamentally important.

Some synod fathers, like Cardinal Oswald Gracias, told America that, because of its “universal nature,” they view the final document as “a draft text” that has to be adapted at national and local church levels. Cardinal Cupich agrees. “It is not a conclusion, it is a springboard by which we can go forward from here,” he said, adding that it must be “taken into consideration with the working document [instrumentum laboris] because they are complementary to each other.”

He said the bishops take home not just the document but the process, the method that produced it so that it can be replicated and have an impact in their home dioceses.

[Explore America's in-depth coverage of the Synod on Young Adults.]

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Terry Magyar
2 weeks 3 days ago

Cardinal Cupich and the other Bishops and Cardinals need to implement policies that will actually protect the flock from sexual predators within the church. These others issues must be secondary, until they are willing to go the "rabbit hole" that will protect children and young men from homosexual predators. When our children and brothers are not safe within our own church, what could be more important ?

Reyanna Rice
2 weeks 3 days ago

The "rabbit hole" from the interview, from which he was badly misquoted, is not the issue of clergy sex abuse, but that of the Vigano letter. That letter, and his subsequent letters, are using the issue of clergy sex abuse to attempt to force the pope to resign or to severely discredit him because those facilitating Vigano do not like the direction Francis has as a vision for the Church, a vision where the clericalism that gives people like Vigano a sense of power will be gone.

Doug Kelchner
2 weeks 3 days ago

Now, if only Cardinal Cupich were to extend the welcome mat to those Catholics he characterizes as "rigid" or "orthodox." You know the type, those who have managed to retain their supernatural faith.

Reyanna Rice
2 weeks 3 days ago

There are many, many Catholics who have a high level of "supernatural faith" to quote you. To think that only certain ones are of a different faith level, one
"supernatural", and I gather you think those are the only "true Catholics", does nothing but reinforce divisions and reinforce the image of those who think this way as "rigid".

Tim Donovan
2 weeks ago

I agree with my late Dad who believed that "conservative" and " liberal " were political terms and therefore are irrelevant terms regarding a description of a Catholic. That is, either one is an orthodox Catholic who believes in the authentic teachings of the Church founded by Jesus, or one dissents from the teachings of the Church. However, I agreed with my late Dad that one could be a good Catholic and favor many liberal political positions. For instance, one could favor stringent gun control laws. When my Dad passed away in 1994, I discovered a handgun in his bank safety deposit box. I immediately turned it over to my local police department. Although I favor the right to bear arms for hunting and for self-defense, I support stringent gun control laws, and believe that there are far too many guns owned by individuals in our nation. For many years prior to the teachings of Pope Francis, I have opposed capital punishment under all circumstances. I oppose the deliberate killing of those convicted of serious crimes not only for moral reasons, but for the practical reason that according to the American Civil Liberties Union, there have,been numerous cases,in which those convicted of murder have,been found by modern scientific evidence to be innocent of any crime. Also, there is evidence that a number of minority members have been unjustly targeted by prosecutors for death,by capital punishment. Also, for many years I've been a pen pal with a man imprisoned for life for having committed a serious crime. From our years of correspondence, I 'm convinced that my friend, who is a devout Jehovah's Witness, has reformed his life. I also support reasonable laws and policies to protect our environment, and occasionally contribute modest sums to the Catholic Climate Covenant, which is a pro-life environmental group. I also believe that our government should provide reasonable assistance to the millions of Americans in need. These include among other people the disabled (I'm a retired Special Education teacher), the homeless, senior citizens, the mentally ill, people addicted to alcohol or drugs (whether legal or illegal), and the seriously ill. For three years I've lived in a quality nursing home/rehabilitation center and know a number of people with Alzheimers Disease, Parkinson's Disease, people who are extremely elderly and need considerable personal care, as well as people who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. Although I 'm not a pacifist, I admire the courage of their convictions. I favor war only as a last resort after all diplomatic efforts have been exhausted. Of course, civilians must never be deliberately targeted, and I oppose the use of nuclear weapons. I also favor increased foreign aid, both in terms of humanitarian assistance as well as to encourage economic development. Although I don't believe that our nation is obligated to accept unlimited numbers of immigrants, I do believe that we should welcome as many immigrants as possible. Years ago, when I worked in a group home with disabled men, several of my co-workers were immigrants from Liberia. They had fled from a brutal civil war and were seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Also, many of the staff where I live are immigrants, primarily from various African nations. I also believe that human trafficking is a very important matter. Victims of human trafficking include both people (primarily women, I believe) who have been forced into prostitution as well as people forced to labor under unsafe conditions and when receiving unfair compensation. Two further points. I happen to be a Catholic who's gay. I certainly understand the discrimination faced by gay people and others who aren't heterosexuals. As I was growing up as an adolescent in the late 1970's, I was often taunted by my peers (of different faiths, I might point out ) by painful, offensive terms such as "faggot." This happened years before I revealed my sexual orientation. When I revealed that I was gay, I was generally met with love and support by my family and friends. Due to depression and loneliness, years ago I did have sex with men. However, I regretted my acts, and received forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As I continue to commit immoral acts in various ways, I go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month. I do have a gay friend whom I talk to by phone occasionally (neither one of us drives anymore) and we get along well. However, I do believe that while gay people should be treated with respect and compassion, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Finally, I do oppose the violence of legal abortion. I do sympathize with women who have unplanned pregnancies. In 1982, my best friend became an unwed father at age 19, and his girl friend (who I later became good friends with) became an unwed mother one month after her 18th birthday and one month after graduating from high school. My friends were married nine months after their son was born (ironic, no?). I was very pleased both as a,friend and a pro-life advocate to help them raise their son. My one friend graduated from college and became a mechanical engineer, and some years later his wife became a pharmacist. I also know two women who've had abortions (one of whom is the older sister of my friend who had an unplanned pregnancy and gave birth at age 18). Although I firmly disagree with their choice to abort their unborn babies, I certainly don't "hate" them, but I believe I understand that unplanned pregnancies can be difficult. While I support restoring legal protection to unborn human beings to the maximum extent possible, I also believe that we must expand our efforts to provide practical, compassionate assistance to pregnant women through crisis pregnancy centers. I occasionally contribute modest sums to a homeless shelter in my county that provides a home for pregnant women and their children as well as other services. I also occasionally contribute modest sums to Mom's House, a network of about six homes. These homes provide free quality day care to low-income pregnant women so that they can complete their education. I believe that not only should our laws change to protect the unborn, but that our government should provide health care to all people in a,manner that (hopefully) will be agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans, and that people of different faiths as well as community groups will provide practical, compassionate alternatives -to-abortion. Finally, I believe that education about both childbirth and abortion is important.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 3 days ago

very corrosive rhetoric against people who are different because of the way they worship, where they come from, or their race,

I havent seen what the Cardinal is saying at all. Legal immigration comes from mostly non Christian, people of color. What's he talking about? He is being divisive by making things up.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 3 days ago

Given what I just said, there is a strong case for minimizing immigration of Muslims. Islam teaches as matter of faith beliefs that are incompatible with any other society especially those of Western origin. If a Muslim migrates it is best that it is to another Muslim land.

rose-ellen caminer
2 weeks 2 days ago

Stop with your anti Semitic bigotry; against Semitic Muslims. What you are advocating is what set off the man who massacred the other Semites in the synagogue. One of his on line posts was that he was sick of: " filthy Jews bringing in filthy Muslims"! Those were the immigrants he, like you, railed against. You , and many like you, with your anti Muslim demonizing are part of 21st century American anti Semitism that resulted in a real massacre. You are bearing false witness ,and that is a sin. Many Muslims have lived with Christians and Jews peacefully and many are quite assimilated in western societies .And have been for decades

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 2 days ago

Stop with your anti Semitic bigotry; against Semitic Muslims.

I would refrain from calling someone else a bigot. Most muslims are not semitic whatever that means? It is not a very useful word for describing people. I would suggest you read what Muslims must believe. They must imitate Muhammed and his immediate followers to be a good Muslim. Are you familiar with how they behaved? My guess not from your comments.

Dolores Pap
2 weeks 2 days ago

Mr Cosgrove- I've worked for many years with lovely people who also happened to be of the Muslim faith-I can assure you that they are no different in their aspirations for a good, happy, and productive life from most Americans.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

I don't disagree with what you said. Nothing I wrote would indicate that I disagree with your comment.

rose-ellen caminer
2 weeks 1 day ago

It's not about numbers; how many Muslims are Semites and how many aren't, any more then it's relevant how many Jews are Semites and how many aren't? Its a Semitic religion and today it is the target of vilification, distrust, animosity, and stereotypic generalizations and dehumanization.Just as has been done to that other Semitic religion; those[evil] others are not like us! Many refugees on the banned list are Muslim people in dire situations.Trump said that part of the problem with the caravan is that it includes[ Semitic] Middle Easterners who are not welcome here. You are spreading the same kind of bigotry.So no, I will not refrain from calling out the new anti Semitism which anti Semites historically shamelessly profess and which you are now doing ;those people [those Jews/ those Muslims] behave THUS, and; if you defend them then you must not "be familiar" with how these [evil] people behave! The usefulness of using the term is exposing this same pattern of evil bigotry[present in anti Semitism] as it's now being used against another Semitic religion and its adherents.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

Again I suggest you refrain from calling others bigots. Have I ever said anything that is incorrect about Islam? My guess is that most Muslims would agree with my comments. Here are three sources who speak Arabic who have written about Islam. 111 Questions on Islam and the West Samir Khalil Samir S.J; Introduction to Islam Prof. Gabriel S. Reynolds, Ph.D. ; Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West Raymond Ibrahim

Dionys Murphy
2 weeks 1 day ago

Bigots, such as you J Cosgrove, need to be called out just as much as the neo-Nazis who are gaining power thanks to people like you.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks ago

Bigots, such as you J Cosgrove, need to be called out

Thank you for your endorsement. Let me introduce you to one of my heroes http://bit.ly/2DozA77

Cardinal Cupich should watch this video.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
2 weeks 3 days ago

Traces or vestiges of xenophobia are getting weaker day by day as we triumphantly march towards the dawn of the 22nd century.

Mike Macrie
2 weeks 3 days ago

Cardinal Cupich who are you going to call out ? Certain Cardinals didn’t have a problem calling out Democratic Senators and deny them Communion. You are not going to call out the President and Congressman Steve King for their Racist views and alienate the Republican Base of the Catholic Church. The problem the Church has is being non-political and not favoring one political party over another.

Iris Wagner
2 weeks 2 days ago

There will be peace when 100% of the population is Muslim

Frank T
2 weeks 2 days ago

Silly comment. Stirring up Islamophobia by dredging up extremists acts doesn't serve anyone. From where I stand, there is plenty of home-grown intolerance. Some of it, Christian.

Mark M
2 weeks ago

Your children will kneel to sharia law. They will curse you in their Dhminitude. Bet on it.

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 1 day ago

Cupich is not one to be offering advice! Far to many skeleton's in his closet to be trusted or to be making comments that are trustworthy!

Jim Spangler
2 weeks 1 day ago

Cupich is not one to be offering advice! Far to many skeleton's in his closet to be trusted or to be making comments that are trustworthy!

Rhonda Gallasp
2 weeks ago

I was diagnosed 2 years ago at age 63. Symptoms were tremor in right leg, loss of handwriting ability, and soft voice. I also have difficulty rising from a seated position and have balance issues. I started out taking only Azilect, then Mirapex, and 6 months ago Sinemet. Several months ago I started falling frequently, hence the reason for Sinemet. I tried every shots available but nothing worked. In June 2018, my neurologist and I decided to go with natural treatment and was introduced to Natural Herbal Gardens natural organic Parkinson’s Herbal formula, i had a total decline of symptoms with this treatment, the Tremor, falling frequently, stiffness, body weakness, balance issues, depression and others has subsided. Visit Natural Herbal Gardens official website ww w. naturalherbalgardens. com. This treatment is a breakthrough for all suffering from Parkinson’s, don’t give up Hope. Keep Sharing the Awareness, herbs are truly gift from God.

Vincent Gaglione
1 week 6 days ago

Said Cardinal Cupich: “The church actually has the responsibility to name bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism and call out those who are elected officials…”

In a comment to the article on the America website: Three ways Catholics can respond to anti-Jewish violence by John J. Conley I wrote:

“I cannot recall having ever heard from a parish pulpit the very direct and clear admonition that anyone who holds antisemitic, racist, or anti-religious attitudes, and uses or supports such rhetoric, is guilty of serious sin. That might be the very best start to accomplish the author’s purposes.”

It might also suit the Cardinal’s purposes as well. I find it astoundingly strange that our leaders have spent 20 years pummeling the faithful and Catholic political leaders with the serious sin of abortion but demurely ignore some of the other serious sins that abound and perdure in our society, some of which the Church in the USA was itself once party to!

Randal Agostini
1 week 4 days ago

The Cardinal should concentrate on the Sacramental Church instead of trying to be a pseudo politician - that way all of us would be able to strive for salvation.

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