New Chicago Archbishop Likely to be a Spanish Speaker

New names emerging in search for Cardinal Francis George's replacement

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    NEWSLETTERS

    8/15/2014: New names emerging in search for Cardinal Francis George's replacement. NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern reports.

    Not just Chicago, the world is waiting to see who Pope Francis will choose as the next archbishop of Chicago, but there is one strong pre-requisite that the next leader must possess -- the ability to communicate in Spanish.

    It will be the Pope's first major American appointment, and new names of potential candidates are emerging.

    Cardinal Francis George announced in May that the process is under way and may take as long as six months.

    He's pushing through with as much of his schedule as he's able to since his kidney cancer returned. In Rome, a key Vatican cardinal noted recently George was "finishing up his time" as the Chicago archbishop.

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    The Rev. Donald Senior, of the Catholic Theological Union describes it as "a very important appointment."

    It's believed more than 100 people are being consulted, but it is quite a secretive process. Ultimately, Pope Francis will make the final selection.

    "There's key people, other bishops, Cardinal George himself who would know the reliable figures to be considered for this," Senior said.

    Many expect a successor to be announced in late October or November, before the Advent season on Nov. 30.

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    As for the ability to communicate in Spanish, it should be noted that the Chicago Archdiocese is nearly 50 percent Hispanic.

    Rumored candidate who fit the Spanish speaking bill include the Archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia Siller, the Archbishop of Indianapolis, Joseph Tobin, and the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski. New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond does not.

    Traditionally the Chicago appointment has been an archbishop, someone from a mid- to major-sized city. However, new names include two men who speak Spanish -- the Bishop of Dallas, Kevin Farrell, born in Ireland with a MBA from the University of Notre Dame and Bishop Kevin Vann, currently leading the Orange County California diocese, who is originally from Springfield, Ill.

    Catholic watchers look to the large celebration of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe in suburban Des Plaines as proof of how important Hispanic Catholics are to the Chicago Archdiocese. More than 100,000 people attended the two-day event last year, the largest gathering of Catholics in the United States outside of a papal visit.

    "Someone who has empathy with the Hispanic cultures is really crucial," Senior confirmed.

    Cardinal George hopes to travel to Rome to meet with the Pope in October. Some are suggesting there won't be a new archbishop named until after that trip.