Three priests with ties to the University of St. Thomas have been elevated to new leadership roles within the Catholic Church.

They are Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich and Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who were named cardinals by Pope Francis on Sunday, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, Bishop Paul Etienne, who will become the archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska.

Cupich graduated from St. Thomas in 1971 while Etienne graduated in 1986; both attended the St. Thomas-based St. John Vianney College Seminary. Tobin, meanwhile, is coming to St. Thomas Monday, Oct. 24, to deliver the Annual Lecture of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship.

Cupich and Tobin were among 17 new cardinals announced by the pope over the weekend; three of them are from the United States. Many news reports describe Cupich and Tobin as moderates who reflect the tone and teachings of Pope Francis.

When St. Thomas awarded Cupich an honorary degree in May, the degree citation noted how church observers said “the Francis revolution in Catholicism has finally arrived in the United States” with Cupich’s 2014 appointment as Chicago’s archbishop.

John Carr, a fellow St. Thomas and St. John Vianney alumnus and a longtime leader at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed, adding in the citation that “Blase is a remarkable example of a Francis bishop before there was a Francis” because of his emphasis on social justice and concern for the poor.

“He listens, learns and leads,” Carr said.

The honorary degree citation continued: “Humble, compassionate and thought-provoking, your ministry is grounded in fundamental convictions that we are on this earth to make it a better place for all of God’s children as we steadfastly seek to promote a universal common good. It is that pursuit of the common good that unites all of us: our students, faculty and alumni, the citizens of your great archdiocese, and you.”

An article about Cupich in the St. Thomas magazine a year ago quoted religion writer John Allen Jr.: “The Francis revolution in Catholicism has finally arrived in the United States. Up to this point, one could have made the argument that the change triggered by Francis is largely a matter of a new tone and style in Rome, but one that had not yet reached down and begun to alter the culture of the church on these shores. With the (Cupich) appointment, however, the American landscape has shifted.”

Commenting on the two new cardinal appointments, Father Larry Snyder, vice president for mission at St. Thomas, said “Archbishop Cupich combines critical thinking with a pastoral approach.”

He added that “we are truly blessed” to have Archbishop Tobin speak here later this month: “In his first year in Indianapolis, Archbishop Tobin led the bishops of Indiana in writing a pastoral letter on poverty in that state.  He also was one of the first to welcome Syrian refugees, an issue that is very dear to Pope Francis’ heart.”

Julie Sullivan, president of St. Thomas, said today that “Pope Francis’ decision to elevate Archbishop Cupich to the rank of cardinal is a source of celebration and pride for the St. Thomas community.

“We are proud to call him an alumnus, and we join in the universal praise of his inspiring leadership of our Church.”

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