Cardinal Cupich discusses church's efforts for peace in Chicago 

By Joyce Duriga  | Editor 
Monday, August 14, 2017

Cardinal Cupich discusses church's efforts for peace in Chicago

Cardinal Cupich spoke at Crain Chicago Business' second annual Future of Chicago forum event at Venue SIX10 in Chicago on Aug. 11, 2017. He was interviewed by MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch and took questions from an audience on the topic of Chicago, violence and the Catholic Church.

“Just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we shouldn't do something."

That's the message Cardinal Cupich has tried to communicate since announcing his anti-violence initiatives in April.

He reiterated that  point  Aug. 11 at Crain's Chicago Business’ second annual Future of Chicago forum whose subject was violence in the city. The conversation was guided by Julia Stasch, president of the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Discussion ran the gamut over topics such as racism, job creation, the community response and more. Here are some of the highlights:


Asked about his experience on ride-alongs with members of the Chicago Police Department, Cardinal Cupich said he met dedicated men and women who are trying to keep the streets safe and who don't know if they will make it home at the end of their shifts to be with their families.

"But I also see, when I go to these various neighborhoods that are troubled and plagued with violence, segregated neighborhoods where there seems to be very little opportunity. There is a sense of hopelessness where people seemed to be locked in because they don't have the opportunities that others do," he said. "Segregation seems to me to be a very important aspect that we have to look at."

To understand the issue better, the cardinal recommended that people read the "very important document" "The Cost of Economic and Racial Segregation in Chicago," released in March by the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Urban Institute with support from MacArthur and the Chicago Community Trust.

"Gang-related violence”

“A good number of people killed by violence here in the city were not involved in gangs. Even if they were, to use that term seems to minimize the value of their life. I think it's very important that we don't characterize the violence in that very singular way because it will send a signal to people that it's a problem ‘over there’ or ‘for these people.’”

Through the Good Friday Walk for Peace held April 14 in the city's Englewood neighborhood, Cardinal Cupich hoped to make people aware that the violence is an issue for all Chicagoans.

“Nobody can walk away. If we're proud to be from Chicago then we have to also take what the challenges are before us. The walk that we had, which drew people from all over different parts of the city, was to awaken folks that this is not just a gang-related problem,” he said. “This is a Chicago problem.”

The cardinal's pledge to address the violence issue

When Cardinal Cupich landed at O'Hare Airport Nov. 13, 2014, as the new archbishop-designate of Chicago, the city’s news media were there to greet him and immediately asked him what he planned to do about Chicago’s violence. He said he wanted to learn more about the church’s efforts before he would respond.

Since that time the cardinal has gathered an inventory of all the work being done in the archdiocese to address violence and has met with parishioners and pastors to hear their experiences. That led him to announce on April 4 a new initiative to increase the work of current anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese’s jail ministry. The archdiocese also announced it would seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle of violence.

With a $250,000 personal donation, Cardinal Cupich created of the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from donations he’s received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

During the Crain's forum, the cardinal shared that the first of those micro grants will be awarded this fall and that he has created a new staff position to coordinate these efforts.

“What we found out in our inventory is that there were many small things, little neighborhood projects that were doing great work, but they lacked just small grants. They didn't have the resources to go and write grants to large foundations,” he said.

That's where the idea emerged for giving microgrants of around $5,000 to $10,000 these groups.

He also shared in ways in which the Catholic Church is already working, like the many programs in neighborhoods prone to violence that offer safe places and help for children and families, such as St. Sabina in Auburn Gresham and St. Martin de Porres in Austin.

"We're looking at ways in which we can enhance what we're doing but we're also open to new opportunities and partnerships with others," he said.

Good work being done

“G.K. Chesterton said ‘The most diabolical of all temptations is discouragement.’ We have to make sure we do not give in to discouragement or feel that the problem is too big,” he told  Stasch. “We must not only decry where the fault lines are but encourage where some good things are happening.”

Leveling the playing field

Cardinal Cupich said the church must always speak out against any form of racism but shouldn't stop there.

"There has to be something positive by which, in fact, we help people who have suffered from generations of racism. Opportunities, fresh opportunities, that … are needed in order to even the playing field," he said. "Whether it is affirmative action … something has to be done to counteract the systemic, historical effects in society today. It's not just about naming it and talking about it. We have to be proactive in saying that there has to be a way that we're going to bend the arc of history in order for the past in some way to be righted."

Combatting  easy access to guns

“This is not about doing away with the Second Amendment but it is about being sure that we have a society where people are not to feel threatened by the saturation of guns, to have a society where people are responsible for how to use them. We need tougher gun laws whereby we eliminate the  availability  of guns,” he said.

Working together

Toward the end of the forum, Cardinal Cupich stressed that many of groups in the city – businesses, unions, government, churches, social service agencies – work in silos and should come together to address the root causes of violence such as access to education and jobs. He offered the church as a forum for this discussion.


  • gun violence

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