Cupich, Tobin and Farrell react to their cardinal appointments

Cardinals-designate Blase Cupich, Joseph Tobin and Kevin Farrell (CNS/Paul Haring; Bob Nichols, Catholic Moment; Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinals-designate Blase Cupich, Joseph Tobin and Kevin Farrell (CNS/Paul Haring; Bob Nichols, Catholic Moment; Tyler Orsburn)

by Kristen Whitney Daniels

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The three U.S. prelates who are to be elevated to the office of cardinal next month announced the news in low-key ways, each saying they were "humbled" by the appointment and asking for continued prayers as they take on their new titles and responsibilities.

The three -- Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, and the former Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell -- are among 17 new cardinals Pope Francis announced around mid-day Rome time Sunday. They will assume the office during a ceremony Nov. 19 at the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City.

Related: "Francis names 17 new cardinals, including Chicago's Cupich and Indianapolis' Tobin" (Oct 9, 2016)

The three are widely known for their moderate stances within the Catholic church and their emphasis on mercy. As members of the College of Cardinals, their chief job is to elect a new pope when that becomes necessary.

Many among the 17 new cardinals come from places that are not traditional cardinal sees. Tobin and Indiana is an example. Bangui in the Central African Republic, Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Merida, Venezuela are other examples of places that will get cardinals that have never had them before.

Massimo Faggioli, a Villanova University historian and theologian was quoted in the The Washington Post as saying, "These appointments of cardinals is one of those moments where you see Pope Francis is changing the face of the church."

Related: "Pope Francis' cardinal choices bring surprises, especially for the US church" (Oct. 11, 2016)

Chicago's Cupich

Cupich announced his new title during his homily at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Ill. during the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass. But according to the Chicago Tribune, he started off by talking about the other big news surrounding Chicago.

"The Cubs won the second game of the playoffs and now lead 2-0," Cupich said.

After garnering laughs from the parishioners, Cupich then went on to tell them that he was "grateful" and "humbled" by the news before moving on to talk about the Gospel.

Following the Mass, Cupich discussed his appointment with the media. "I would have to say as I reflect on it, while I'm pleased with this, I don't feel any different," he said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I feel as though I have to be the same person that I've always been. So, this isn't going to give me greater impulse or hold me back from being involved in the lives of people. I just don't feel as though it is in any way going to change me personally."

Cupich has been archbishop of Chicago for almost two years. Before that the Omaha, Neb., native was the bishop of Spokane, Wash., and of Rapid City, S.D.

Related: "Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Cupich to Congregation for Bishops" (July 7, 2016)

Cupich was recently appointed to the Congregation for Bishops, which oversees the selection of most new bishops. He also serves on many committees, including co-chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs' National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue.

In a statement from the Chicago archdiocese, Cupich calls the appointment "humbling."

"The role of Cardinal brings new responsibilities, but with your prayers and help, we will continue the task we have begun of renewing the Church in the archdiocese and preparing it to thrive in the decades ahead," said Cupich.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement via his Twitter account calling Cupich a "light of inspiration for all of us" and a "blessing to the City of Chicago."

"In just a short time serving our city he has made a tremendous impact as a voice for the voiceless in the name of inclusion -- for those living in poverty and on the margins of society, for immigrants and new Americans, and for children and families across the city and around the world," said Emanuel.

Indianapolis' Tobin

One of the surprises from the announcement of new cardinals came from Indianapolis, as an area that has never been represented in the College of Cardinals. Tobin tweeted he was "shocked" by the pope's decision and asked for prayers.

Tobin, a former Redemptorist superior general, was appointed archbishop of Indianapolis in 2012. When the call came from Rome, Tobin was in southern Indiana for a conference on women's leadership in the church and visiting parishes for confirmation. After receiving the news, Tobin continued with his confirmation itinerary.

At a press conference today, at the Catholic Center of Indianapolis, Tobin recounted how he informed his family of the news. Cellphone coverage was spotty where Tobin was and he said he received angry voicemails from his sisters, asking why he hadn't told them of the appointment. Tobin retorted, "Check your voicemail." When Tobin told his elderly mother, he reported that his mother said "I've only prayed for you to be a good priest." Tobin asked that she "keep praying."

Tobin garnered some national attention last year over the debate surrounding Syrian refugees. In December 2015, Tobin met with Ind. Governor Mike Pence, who is currently running as Republican vice-presidential nominee, about housing Syrian refugees, according to Christian Today. At the time, Pence blocked government assistance for the resettlement of Syrian refugees and asked that Tobin not house a family in his diocese. Tobin defied Pence's request.

In both the press conference and Tobin's formal statement following being named cardinal, he expressed love for his community in Indianapolis and a desire to "stay close to the people."

"I will continue as the Archbishop of Indianapolis. I have come to love deeply the people of the Catholic communities of central and southern Indiana and count as a precious blessing the numerous friendships I have with civic and religious leaders throughout the state," he wrote.

Adding, "I ask all people of faith to pray for me. I hope this new responsibility will make me a better servant of all Hoosiers."

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett congratulated Tobin on the appointment: "Our city has been blessed by both his spiritual and civic leadership, and I look forward to working with Cardinal Tobin and the Catholic Church as we seek to end poverty and inequality here in Indianapolis."

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., also congratulated Tobin saying, "We have been blessed by his faithful leadership in Indiana and know he will continue to serve with distinction."

Bishop Charles Thompson of the neighboring Evansville, Ind., diocese, was with Tobin the day before the announcement. Both took part in a moderated conversation at the Women of the Church Conference in Ferdinand, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 8, about the role of leadership for women in the church, women deacons and dialoguing with millennial women.

Thompson told Global Sisters Report, the NCR reporting project, that he had texted Tobin Sunday morning congratulating him on his sixth anniversary as archbishop, unaware of the news from the Vatican. Tobin texted back thanking him for the message. Thompson later found out via the internet of Tobin's appointment to cardinal and immediately texted Tobin back.

Speaking of Tobin's appointment, Thompson said, "I'm excited -- I think the world of him. From the day I met him and especially from the first day I have gotten to work with him in Indiana, I have been so impressed with him. He's incredible -- he has got such a pastoral heart. He really has the spirit, the heart, the mind of Pope Francis I think here in Indiana and in the [U.S. bishops' conference]."

"He was so good," Thompson added, "I was worried we wouldn't keep him very long -- that he'd go to Washington or one of these other dioceses that has a cardinal -- so the fact that he's made the first cardinal of Indianapolis is the best of both worlds."

Tobin is scheduled to become chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations following the U.S. bishops' conference meeting in November. He is also co-chair of the North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation.

Cardinal-designate Farrell

Although Farrell left Dallas Oct. 6 for a new post in Rome, to head the newly created Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, tributes and congratulations flowed from his former Texas diocese.

An editorial from the Dallas Morning News, they wrote that "we're pulling for Cardinal Farrell and the church to succeed." The editorial discussed Farrell's contributions to the diocese, including building bridges to the Spanish-speaking population within the diocese. Farrell navigated multiple crises in recent times including housing a family of an Ebola victim when no one else would and during the shooting of five police officers this past July.

Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly, the apostolic administrator in Dallas, broke the news of Farrell's appointment to the priests of the diocese. Farrell had been the bishop of Dallas since 2007.

"It is with great joy that I share the news that Bishop Farrell will be made a cardinal in the next Vatican consistory on November 19, 2016. Please pray for him during this important moment in his priesthood and let us once again thank God for his nine years of service here with us," Kelly stated.

Farrell issued a written statement saying, "I am humbled by the news this morning that our Holy Father Pope Francis has named me to the College of Cardinals. I ask all in the Diocese of Dallas to please pray for me that I may to the best of my ability fulfill this sacred duty to our Church."

[Kristen Whitney Daniels is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Gail DeGeorge, editor of Global Sisters Report, contributed to this article.]

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