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VATICAN CITY, February 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — On January 30, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago traveled to Rome to meet with the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. Sources in Rome say that Pope Francis is considering promoting Cupich to the position of prefect of that congregation, replacing Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who is set to leave the post this year, the Catholic News Agency reported.

The Holy See press office listed Pope Francis as having received both Cupich and Ouellet the morning of January 30, but provided no more details about the meeting.

Ouellet has served as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops since 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI installed him in the position. In June 2020, Ouellet reached 75 years of age, the traditional age at which bishops are required to submit their resignation.

A Vatican insider told CNA that the Pope is “seriously considering making a surprise appointment, a bishop from the peripheries” as the new head of the congregation. Until now, expectations have been with Bishop Robert Francis Prevost of Chiclayo, Peru, as Ouellet’s replacement. Prevost was appointed as bishop of Chiclayo in 2015 by Pope Francis.

Now, however, CNA’s source said that Cupich, who was appointed as a member of the Congregation for Bishops in July 2016, is the front-runner for the position due to “the message that his appointment would deliver regarding the type of bishops he [Francis] wants for the Church,” as well as his heightened public profile.

Should Francis follow through with the appointment of Cupich, it would give the cardinal the most power in the Church, second only to that of the Pope, over the appointment of bishops throughout the world. Usually, after local consultations take place, the apostolic nuncio will forward nominations to the Congregation for Bishops, which then, presided over by the prefect, presents a candidate (or candidates) for the Holy Father’s deliberation.

A source confirmed the level of influence Cupich could attain, in that the “Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops not only has a significant role in the process (of appointing a bishop),” but also has the ear of the Pontiff, being “one of the few members of the Roman Curia that meets with the Holy Father regularly, almost every Saturday.”

Cupich — created cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016 — made headlines recently after blasting the U.S. bishops’ conference for its statement on the inauguration of “Catholic” President Joe Biden. Cupich argued that the statement, which was critical of Biden’s pro-abortion, pro-LGBT stance, was “ill-considered,” and “came as a surprise to many bishops.”

Cupich’s criticism of the statement fell in line with the position of the Vatican, which suppressed the release of the statement “hours before it was due to be released.”

Cupich has a long history of playing down the importance of combating abortion, going back at least 10 years. As bishop of Spokane, he instructed priests and seminarians within his jurisdiction “to refrain from participating in demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood clinics or supporting ‘40 Days for Life.’”

A member of the diocesan respect life committee told LifeSiteNews at the time that Cupich said he did not support 40 Days for Life during a committee meeting in late July, noting his disapproval of “picketing” outside abortion facilities. Although members of the committee responded that 40 Days for Life was peaceful and non-demonstrative, according to the source, Cupich “was not moved.”

After much backlash, Cupich released a statement saying priests could attend such demonstrations, but that “all priests prayerfully reflect on what he has told them, commit themselves to making teaching effectively their first priority and keep in mind the irreplaceable power of the witness of their unity with each other.”

Furthermore, Cupich has come out in support of using abortion-tainted vaccines, going so far as to claim that getting the jab is a “moral obligation.” In a tweet, he “encourage[d] everyone, when your time comes and you are invited to get vaccinated, to do so.”

Cupich cited the Holy Father as having given “clear moral guidance” on the issue of taking abortion-related vaccines, arguing that “As [Pope Francis] has said, we need to do it for the common good; we have a moral obligation to our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family.”

Cupich has served as Chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection for Children and Young People since 2008 and has been consistently supported and promoted by Pope Francis.