- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Catholic Latinos went to Mass on Sunday hopeful that the incoming archbishop of Chicago will continue to speak out for immigration reform and the needs of the poor, and that he simply will be a big part of their parishes.

On the first Sunday since Pope Francis’ selection of Bishop Blase Cupich to succeed the ailing Cardinal Francis George in November was announced, several people at largely Latino parishes in the Pilsen neighborhood said they were encouraged by what they knew of Cupich. They cited Cupich’s immigrant roots - all four of his grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Croatia.

“He comes from a family of immigrants, so therefore we have something in common,” said Jose Sauceda, on his way into St. Pius V Catholic Church. “He knows immigrants and their customs.”

Cupich, who heads the Archdiocese of Spokane, Washington, spoke at a Chicago news conference on Saturday about the need for immigration reform, among other things, saying, “Every day we delay is a day too long.” He said he will continue to speak out publicly on the matter.

“Everything has changed with this pope we have and I think (Cupich) will be out there walking with us,” said Israel Flores, 54.

Steve Vidal, a 42-year-old teacher who had just attended Mass at St. Pius, was among several worshippers who said Cupich’s views seem in line with those of the pope, who has criticized the church hierarchy for alienating Catholics by focusing on divisive issues more than on mercy and compassion.

“I think he will carry on the attitude that Pope Francis exemplifies,” Vidal said. “He will include people and be open to dialogue with all people, including people who have been marginalized by the church.”

Not only did several Catholics interviewed Sunday welcome the prospect of a more moderate leader of the nation’s third largest archdiocese than the conservative George, but they expect Cupich to have a stronger relationship with their parishes than George seemed to have, particularly in recent years during his public battle with cancer.

“He was focused on his health and we didn’t see him visiting this community or get to know us here,” said Nelly Viramontes, 36, before Mass at St. Paul Catholic Church. “I hope he (Cupich) will embrace the Hispanic community and be more visible here.”

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