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By Michael O’Loughlin

National reporter August 7, 2015

Pope Francis greeted Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago after a Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Pope Francis greeted Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago after a Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich is set to receive another major nod from Pope Francis: a place at the table for the upcoming Synod on the Family in Rome.

The news was first reported by the Catholic News Agency and was later confirmed by Crux by a Church official who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops had chosen Cupich as an alternate last November, along with San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, a conservative voice in the US hierarchy who leads the bishops’ committee on marriage.

Francis will appoint another bishop to the US slate as well: Bishop George Murry, the leader of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, who is a Jesuit like Pope Francis. Murry is one of a handful of African-American Catholic bishops.

When Cupich was in Rome for the Pallium Mass in June, Cupich was one of the only newly appointed archbishops granted a private audience with Pope Francis.

Cupich, 66, has quickly emerged as an outspoken leader of the center-left wing of the US hierarchy since his appointment last November. He was handpicked by Francis to serve as leader of the nation’s third largest archdiocese, and this latest appointment will further bolster his profile as the pope’s man in the United States.

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In his first few months in Chicago, he’s made immigration, climate change, and changing the leadership of the archdiocese his top priorities.

The slate the bishops elected to send to the synod — which will continue a discussion begun last year on family issues including contraception, sexuality, and divorce and remarriage — is comprised of generally conservative bishops:

  • Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, USCCB president
  • Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB vice president
  • Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez
  • Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput

Both Kurtz and DiNardo participated in the first part of the synod, held last October in Rome.

It included unprecedented discussion about situations confronting modern families, ranging from divorce and remarriage and homosexuality to polygamy and the stresses of war.

In June, Murry and Cupich were in Washington, DC, with Cardinal Donald Wuerl to participate in a forum with US labor leaders.

Wuerl, and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, are also expected to serve as delegates because they are both members of the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops.

If Cupich and Murry are confirmed, that will bring the number of US delegates to eight.

The second part of the synod takes place Oct. 4-24, kicking off just days after Francis wraps up his three-city tour of the United States in late September.