A coalition of 80 Illinois leaders — political, business and religious — traveled to Rome to watch Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich be elevated to cardinal Saturday.
So what does it mean to be a cardinal in the Catholic Church, and why should anyone who isn’t Catholic care?
What’s the difference between a Cardinal and a Bishop?
Becoming a cardinal is “not exactly a promotion although it might (have) a little bit more influence and power in the church,” said Michael Patrick Murphy, the director of Catholic studies at Loyola University Chicago.
He said Cupich’s new title will be archbishop cardinal, because all cardinals are bishops, but not all bishops are cardinals.
Murphy said all bishops are technically on equal ground.
“Cardinal…comes from the Latin word for ‘hinge,’ and it’s a closer group that advises the pope multiple times a year, and actually votes for the new pope when the current pope passes away,” Murphy said. “So there is some power. It’s certainly a significant title.”
Why did Pope Francis pick Cupich for elevation?
Murphy said Cupich is “a Francis appointment for sure.”
What he means is Cupich is considered to be “progressive” in the same way as Francis.
“What Cupich has in common with Pope Francis is a high regard for the social teachings of the church that are pastoral and active,” Murphy said. “Things like caring about the poor, immigration reform, ecological concerns, that are not always held in the same [regard] by other kinds of Catholics.”
What will it mean for Chicago-area Catholics?
Murphy said Cupich’s elevation will mean those concerns — like poverty, immigration and the environment — will be “amplified and engaged in a more rigorous way.”
He said Chicago parishes will be compelled to focus on those more “pastoral” causes “as opposed to concerns about who can take the Eucharist and who can’t.”
Why would non-Catholics care?
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are the most prominent faces in the group of people — many of them not Catholic — who traveled to the Vatican for the ceremony.
“The whole topic is fraught with politics,” Murphy said.
He believed so many leaders are making the trip “because Chicago is such a Catholic town” with about 38 percent of residents identifying as Catholic. The trip is a hopeful sign of unity between the state’s highest profile Republican and highest-profile Democrat, Murphy said.
“It does signal a way that these groups can work together, and I think it’s a good thing because if you get all these people in the same place, maybe some dialogue will happen that will help us all.”
Emanuel’s office said his trip is being funded by the group World Business Chicago — an organization he chairs that receives funding from the city.
A spokesman for the governor said the Rauners are paying their own way to Rome.
Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him @pksmid.