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Meet Wilton Gregory, America's first Black cardinal appointed by Pope Francis

Archbishop Gregory will officially be confirmed during a special ceremony to be held on November 28.

Meet Wilton Gregory, America's first Black cardinal appointed by Pope Francis
Image Source: Getty Images/ New Archbishop Of Washington Wilton Gregory Is Installed. (Photo by Mark Wilson)

Wilton Gregory has made history (again) this week when he was appointed the first Black archbishop in the United States, CNN reports. Pope Francis appointed him following his Angelus prayer from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City by tapping on his shoulder. The archbishop is one of 13 to be elevated to the rank at a surprise consistory, otherwise known as a ceremony. Archbishop Gregory made headlines and history last year when he was appointed Washington, DC's first African-American archbishop. His appointment reveals not only his strengths as a religious leader but also, sadly, the systemic disenfranchisement within the Catholic church.




Archbishop Gregory is best known for the leadership skills he exhibited during the clergy sexual abuse crisis the Catholic church went through in the early 2000s. Since 2005, he led the Archdiocese of Atlanta, following which he was appointed the Archbishop of Washington, DC just last year. Gregory was, in 2019, replacing Cardinal Donald Wuerl who had resigned in October 2018 as a result of public outrage about his role in the sexual abuse crisis.




Now, the newly-appointed archbishop will be primarily responsible for electing a new pope, should he step down or die, as all cardinals are. This was confirmed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As nine of the 13 new cardinals are currently under the age of 80, they are indeed eligible to elect Pope Francis's successor, the religious leader affirmed. Archbishop Gregory will soon don the distinctive red vestment. As per Vatican News, the official news agency of the Holy See, this vestment is a way for cardinals to "indicate their willingness to sacrifice themselves to the point of shedding 'their own blood in the service of the Successor of Peter.'"




The official ceremony to install the new cardinals will take place on November 28, Pope Francis announced. This is a particularly important moment for Archbishop Gregory, who has rallied for better race relations and representation within the Catholic church. He has in the past reiterated the importance of young Black Catholics seeing church leaders who look like them. At a time when calls for racial justice have reemerged into the mainstream, Gregory's confirmation as a cardinal is of utmost importance. “Ours is the task and the privilege of advancing the goals that were so eloquently expressed 57 years ago by such distinguished voices on that day,” he said at the Mass commemorating the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. “Men and women, young and old, people of every racial and ethnic background are needed in this effort.”



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