Chicago's Archbishop Blase Cupich was officially elevated to the prestigious position of cardinal on Saturday, making him the first American bishop to be appointed by Pope Francis.
Cupich is now the 7th Cardinal from Chicago to become one of just 120 men who assist the pope and shape the direction of the Catholic Church. The College of Cardinals also serve as the electors of the next pope and are considered the "senate of the church." [[402039115, C]]
More than 500 people with ties to Cupich, who has led the Chicago Archdiocese since September 2014, gathered in Rome to witness the consistory at St. Peter's Basilica.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel led a delegation of elected officials and civic leaders, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, Sen. Dick Durbin, Congressman Mike Quigley, City Clerk Susana Mendoza and about 300 others.
“For Catholics, it’s a very, very significant event,” Emanuel said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5.
Cupich succeeds Cardinal Francis George, who passed away in April 2015 and was considered by the Vatican to be the lead American Catholic Cardinal.
Cardinal Cupich took to Twitter after the consistory, saying, "I am humbled and encouraged by this honor and responsibility bestowed by @Pontifex. Keep those prayers coming!" [[402039085, C]]
In all, 17 cardinals were elevated Saturday, including Cupich and two other Americans - Archbishop of Indianapolis Joseph Tobin and Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell. Pope Francis has now appointed 40 percent of the cardinals from around the world.
The consistory, or coming together, came at an interesting time for Americans, just days after the presidential election, with faith and politics at times appearing to collide.
In his homily, Francis cautioned somberly against those who "raise walls, build barriers and label people," adding, "We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts."
The historic ceremony also fell on the same weekend as the end of the Year of Mercy, with the closing of the Holy Doors occurring on Sunday.